FARMINGTON — With half of their senior years complete at Piedra Vista High School, Jesse Martinez and Emily Sartin are preparing to enter college after earning national recognition for academic achievement.

With the help of Financial Aid College Entrance Counselor Natalie Stark, Martinez and Sartin have been working towards their post-high school life, starting as early as sophomore year for Sartin.

Sartin — the daughter of Gary and Margie Sartin, both Farmington Municipal School District employees -- is the only National Merit semifinalist in San Juan County and one of 16,000 across the United States.

Martinez was selected as one of two New Mexico delegates for the United States Senate Youth Program. He will travel to Washington D.C. for a week in March to experience the government in action.

"I have a love of law and politics and it's something I want to pursue in my career, so I thought this would be a great program to take part in," Martinez said.

Sartin explained that she was between bouts of pneumonia when she took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, her junior year.

"She's amazing," Stark said. "She was sicker than sick."

After being selected as a semifinalist, Sartin had to complete an essay as part of the application to be a finalist.

"I wrote about a paper I did last year for National History day, on Farmington," Sartin said. "On the racial reform here since the 70's. I talked about that issue, how I wrote my paper and did the research and ... my community service with (National) Honor Society."

Sartin keeps busy as a member of the chamber orchestra, playing violin and operating her own private music studio, where she teaches two students. As the school's National Honor Society president she has taken the lead in organizing events like the recent tutoring marathon at the Piedra Vista library.

"Emily came to me and said they wanted to put on a tutoring marathon to get the students ready for semester exams and I said, What do you want to do?'" Principal Ann Gattis said.

With Gattis' help wrangling teachers for a five-hour block after school and local businesses donating free food, Sartin and the honor society were able to host the tutoring marathon.

"The library was full for five hours after school with kid's studying, it was all her and NHS' idea," Gattis said. "So whenever students come with these sort of ideas, we do our best to encourage them and help them."

Martinez wanted to host a mock trial for his senior project, which turned out to be a little too ambitious.

"He had this whole elaborate thing but I wasn't able to do it, it was more than we can do in school," Gattis said.

After being selected as one of 14 semifinalists for the Senate Youth Program, Martinez traveled to Albuquerque. There, he wrote an essay and debated another semifinalist before being selected as a finalist.

"I've grown up in very politically oriented family and I've spent a lot of time with my grandpa, he was one of my big influences in getting into politics," Martinez said.

Martinez keeps busy, like Sartin, with extra-curricular activities. He took French classes for four years and is a member of French Club. Martinez volunteered for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign earlier this year and is president of the mock-trial club.

He is eager to take the club to Albuquerque to compete in the state contest, which covers all aspects of a trial including going through exhibits and statements, picking lawyers and witnesses, and going through the entire trial process.

Both students have been busy applying to colleges and universities. Sartin was accepted to Harvard University.

"I'm ecstatic I got accepted and I still can't believe it," Sartin said.

Martinez has applied to Georgetown University where he hopes to start his path to becoming a lawyer and running for elected office.

Sartin doesn't have a specific career in mind but hopes to build upon her love of helping people.

"Our family has gone out and helped with the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner before and when you do things like that and you can see you are helping another person, you sort of get the warm fuzzy (feeling)," Sartin said. "You know you made a difference in someone else's life."