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Two SMHS seniors are National Merit semifinalists

11/05/2021 | Comments

COLORADO SPRINGS. The last two years have been a challenge for everyone because of the pandemic, especially students and educators. From online learning to socially-distanced classrooms, students have dealt with more than they ever anticipated making academic success and motivation far more difficult. Despite these setbacks, two students at St. Mary’s High School have earned great achievements. John Berson and Elliott Bode, both seniors at St. Mary’s, have been named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The National Merit Scholarship Program was established in 1955 in order to “identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest,” according to the Nation Merit Scholarship Corporation. Roughly 50,000 students qualify for the scholarship a year of which 16,000 are designated as semifinalists.

While competition is fierce, Berson and Bode have worked hard to show their exemplary qualities and both hope to move on in the competition as finalists.  Both are set to graduate with above-average GPAs and volunteer hours far above the St. Mary’s minimum requirements.

Berson’s volunteer hours have come through the St. Mary’s Ambassador Program and working with the school’s annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Camp. He has also volunteered for three summers at The Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs as a gallery docent.  Bode has also done volunteer work in STEM-related activities which he believes will reflect well as he applies to STEM colleges. Both students also make time for extracurricular activities. For Berson, that has been competitive dance since he was in first grade. Bode enjoys competitive shooting with the St. Mary’s shooting team.

While their GPAs, volunteer work, and commitment to extracurricular activities should help set them apart from the other semifinalists of the National Merit Scholarship, both believe that it is St. Mary’s faith-based education that has set them up for success.

“I feel like the teachers are much more concerned with your well-being, your mental health, how you’re doing in school, and that’s helped a lot,” Bode said. “And then you just meet a lot of really good people who are willing to help you out.”

Bode said that for him becoming a National Merit Semifinalist has proven that he can compete at a national level, which is something he takes great pride in.

To qualify for a National Merit scholarship, students are chosen based on their scores on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). However, given issues created by the pandemic, other standardized tests were accepted for this year’s National Merit program students and both Berson and Bode qualified based on their SAT scores. From the semifinalists, only about 7,600 finalists are selected to receive scholarships. Finalists will be announced in February.

After high school, both Berson and Bode are planning STEM paths in college. Berson is focused on aerospace engineering, while Bode plans to concentrate on computer science. Berson has applied to the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, Michigan State University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Bode has applied to Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois, Purdue University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Winning the scholarship would help tremendously with these universities.

(Emma Kay is a journalism student at Mary’s High School.)

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