Though she’s now a senior at Ottawa High School, Caroline Webber has always been a dedicated student.

“I’ve definitely always been very driven,” she said. “I tend to work really hard until I can understand something completely.”

That drive has paid off for Webber, who Thursday learned of her status as a “Commended Student” in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.

“[Of the] 1.6 million students who took the 2017 Preliminary SAT (PSAT) last October, about 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise,” an OHS news release said.

In the weeks leading up to the test, Webber began to prepare.

“I studied a bit, but not as much as I had intended on,” she said. “But yeah, I did prepare.”

Though she felt like the only one prepping for the test, she doesn’t regret the hours spent studying.

“I would definitely say study, even if your peers aren’t,” Webber said. “Because I know, with the PSAT, and especially the ACT, none of my friends really studied, and sometimes I felt awkward being the only one who was studying. But it was so worth it, in the end.”

Despite an initial bobble, the day of the test went smoothly.

“It was a good day,” Webber said. “My calculator died right before the test, but luckily one of my teachers helped me charge it up. Other than that minor bump in the road — my calculator ended up working fine for the test — it was overall a pretty good day.”

Despite the mellow testing experience, Webber wasn’t confident in her performance.

“I actually didn’t feel very good about it,” she said. “I took it my sophomore year and I was like, ‘Hmm, this is definitely worse than last year.’ Which did not turn out to be the case.”

School administrators surprised Webber Wednesday afternoon with the news.

“My principal and my counselor came in to study hall, to present me with the award, and I didn’t know what was going on until about halfway through [the presentation],” Webber laughed.

When the full reality of her award sank in, Webber was quick to share the credit for her achievement.

“It really feels like my hard work is being recognized,” she said. “And it feels good because our school hasn’t had someone who’s had this honor in a while, and I really feel like I’m sharing it with everyone.

“I feel like it’s a good moment for our school.”