As students walk the halls of Clark High School, they are surrounded by the memory of celebrated alumni.
We are not talking Jimmy Kimmel or Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto but the hundreds of National Merit Scholars lining the hallways.
"We were averaging three or four a year and then we started building momentum," Principal Jill Pendleton said. "Then one year we jumped all the way up to 14."
This year 25 Clark High students were named National Merit Scholar semifinalists.
"Ever since I came here I found so much competition," Senior Pablo Alarcon said.
Alarcon is one of the 25 semifinalists and wants to follow in his mother's footsteps and become a dentist.
She had to give up that career when she came to the united states in 2010 where her experience in Columbia didn't matter.
"The thing that really broke my heart is when we came here it is worth nothing," Alarcon said.
His mother's love of education pushed Alarcon to apply to Clark's Magnet program.
"Everybody here, they strive for the best," Alarcon said.
Principal Jill Pendleton say that's one of the reasons she strives to recruit the best teachers to help create a strong academic culture.
One that inspires all of the students.
"It just creates this wonderful atmosphere where students can excel academically," Pendleton said.
While the National Merit Scholars may get plenty of attention, Pendleton says everyone in the school benefits.
"I have seen everything at this school over the last 10 years improve across the board," Pendleton said. Including those from the surrounding low-income neighborhoods who are making major strides.
"When I got here we had a 58 percent graduation rate, now we are at 90," Pendleton said. "We have more students enrolled in advanced placement classes from our zoned population than ever before."
As for Alarcon is hoping next year he's heading to a different Columbia, Columbia University, yo set an example for other Hispanic students.
"I think them watching me succeed. I want to inspire them as a culture," Alarcon said.