Ralph Yarl, now in his senior year, receives national honors for academic excellence

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Ralph Yarl is among six seniors in the North Kansas City School District being recognized nationally for academic success, after being named a National Merit Commended Student.

The 17-year-old is finishing out his high school career, while also waiting to see the man charged with shooting him go to trial.

Andrew Lester, 84, who is white, has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the shooting of Yarl, who is Black, after the teen mistakenly showed up on his north Kansas City front porch in April.

Yarl was named a National Merit Commended Student alongside Carmen Klein, Cruz T. Lewis, Ethan Nguyen, Jillian Housh and Madeline Malena, the school district announced this week.



“Each senior earned this top honor thanks to demonstrated academic excellence. Commended Students represent the top 3% of test-takers throughout the country,” the school district posted on Facebook.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for high school seniors that recognizes students with the highest PSAT scores in the country.

Staley High School juniors can take the PSAT each fall. It was offered in October 2022 during Yarl’s junior year, several months before he was shot.

Last month, Yarl told his own story, testifying in court that he went to a home in the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Street, where he thought he was picking up his twin brothers. Yarl had intended to go to a home one street over, on Northeast 115th Terrace.

Yarl walked onto Lester’s front porch and rang the doorbell. When he saw the main door open, he started to pull at the storm door, assuming he’d be welcomed in.

Instead, he said Lester told him, “Don’t come here ever again” and held up a gun.

Yarl said he dropped his hand from the door and stepped backward. Then he said Lester shot him once in the head. Yarl said he fell to the ground, and then Lester shot him again in the arm.

A jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 7, 2024, at the Clay County Courthouse. Judge David Paul Chamberlain will oversee the trial.

Until then, Yarl is busy with school, band and college tours. As he began his senior year, family said he planned to visit the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, Texas A&M University and Purdue University. He still hopes to study engineering.

He also has a much-anticipated trip to the White House. A date has not yet been announced, but in April, the president extended an invitation to the family during a phone call with Yarl.

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