Robin Hood isn’t the only one sporting a few feathers in his cap this fall. Jenison High School has recently received word that four of our seniors have joined an elite, nationwide group of students who qualified as “National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists.”
Jesse Hayden, Daniel Wells, Kyle Vachon and Jason Wesseling were notified just weeks into the school year that their college tuition bills may be looking a lot better (by way of scholarship monies). With dreams that range from writing and literature to physics and statistics, these young men have bright futures awaiting them at schools like Notre Dame, Brown and Wheaton.
While they’re taking the praise in stride, counselor Terry Dykstra helped to put this achievement in perspective, indicating that there are only 15,000 semi-finalists in the entire country—and we boast four! He explained that only the “elite of the elite” — or the top 1% — of all students in the United States who took the PSAT scored high enough to rank as semi-finalists. Of those 15,000, likely just 8,000 will be named National Merit Scholars, a decision made in part by their final SAT scores.
“Students have to take the SAT to confirm that their score on the PSAT was an accurate one and not a fluke. I fully expect that these guys are all going to be able to demonstrate that theirs were not flukes, but rather a true measure of their abilities,” said Mr. Dykstra.
National Merit Scholars receive scholarship money that is generally corporate or college sponsored and in the neighborhood of $2,500 per student, though some schools far exceed this amount. Students achieving this status are notified in the spring and recognized at Senior Honors Night.
“There was no surprise when we finally got word of these four individuals qualifying as semi-finalists!” added Mr. Dykstra.
Each of these students has been encouraged and inspired by family members and teachers throughout their educational journey, some reaching back into their elementary years to say “thank you.”
Jesse remembers being “really, really nervous” after returning to the States from Slovakia, where he had lived as a son of missionaries. But Mrs. Fales, his 4th grade teacher at Bursley Elementary, made the transition easy.
“She was just very kind and welcomed me in. I also really liked to write and she saw that early on. She let me share stories with the class, which was how I was able to connect with kids from a different country when I was a new student,” recalled Jesse.
Kyle pointed to the influence and kindness of both Mr. Weaver and Mrs. Weaver who made him feel safe and “not so nervous” to be a young student in classes of mostly juniors and seniors.
And Jason, who came to JHS from Hudsonville Christian his freshman year, said that Mrs. Wabeke was a difference-maker in his life. “She does a lot to help you make friends in class,” he said.
In the end, though, it was that magical combination of hard work and determination that has landed this group among the 1%. We tip our fully-feathered hats to them and wish them luck as they strive to be named official National Merit Scholars!