In May, as neighborhood teens prepared for final exams, prom, and high school graduation, three Stapleton students also received great news: each had received a National Merit Scholarship for $2,500.
Thousands of seniors from across the country competed for the honor, 2,500 of whom earned the title of “National Merit Scholar.” The pool of approximately 15,000 finalists represents less than one percent of all U.S. high school seniors.
Ana Paola Kwan will graduate with an IB certificate from George Washington High School (GW). In the fall, she will attend CU Boulder, where she plans to pursue an engineering degree. Kwan sounds ready for this next step, confident that GW’s “very rigorous” IB program and speech and debate prepared her for college. She says that she has always loved math and science, and credits math teacher Joseph Bolz with nurturing that passion while at GW. “He is always really supporting all of our learning, not just in math,” she observes. This past summer, an engineering camp at the University of Notre Dame solidified her commitment to engineering. Though she is not sure if she will focus on mechanical engineering, she’s already talking about pursuing a Master’s.
Tessa Berns, who goes by Elizah, will take an entirely new direction after completing her degree in creative writing at Denver School of the Arts (DSA). She plans to attend Arizona State University, which offers a full scholarship for National Merit finalists—and major in computer science and math. She says she was really impacted by reading Elie Wiesel’s Night in fifth grade. “I felt really upset because it felt like people should have done something more…I didn’t want to be the person who turned away the boat of refugees,” she reflects, referring to the fate of 937 Jewish refugees aboard the M.S. St. Louis, denied entry to Cuba, the U.S. and Canada by their respective governments in 1939. A fan of the “Unit of Caring” blog, Berns researched how she could best influence the world. “It turns out that math and computer science are really important for interventions in global poverty, artificial intelligence, and other areas.” These fields, she hopes, will allow her to be an “effective altruist” as well as a change-maker.
Andrew Hageman will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall, where he plans to major in business administration and possibly double major in engineering. Hageman was already an entrepreneur while at Westerly Creek Elementary School, when he met Dr. Philip Schmidt of the University of Texas at Austin who gave him the inspiration for making rocket launchers. With his friend Zac Stahlhut, he launched ZARL, Inc., which made and sold rocket launchers and toy rockets at the Sweet William Market and other area venues. He credits Young Americans Center for Financial Education with some of the business acumen he had developed. “Even before I had the business, I did a lot of camps there, and they helped me start a business.” [ZARL Inc. received a 2013 award from Young Americans, featured here: https://frontporchne.com/article/three-local-youth-entrepreneurs-win-awards/]. At GW, math teacher Joseph Bolz and economics teacher Marcus Lee continued to nurture Hageman’s interests in business, math, and economics. “The best thing about IB is that you have the same teacher for several years. Mr. Bolz has been one of the few teachers that really challenged me in math,” he says.