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Berwick Academy Announces Five National Merit Semifinalists

Berwick Academy is pleased to announce five students that have been named National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Nikhil Agarwal of Exeter, New Hampshire, Elijah D'Aran of South Berwick, Maine, Sam Fassen of Dover, New Hampshire, Zachary Greenspan of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Brett Starr of Rye, New Hampshire.

Over 1.6 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 Semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

Director of College Counseling Moira McKinnon notes, "While lofty SAT scores start the National Merit process, these five young men have been outstanding scholars for years. Each displays leadership in class discussions, group projects, and academic research. As peer tutors, club leaders, and student government officials they are committed to the success of their peers as well as their own. Through their efforts, they exemplify a deep commitment to Berwick's culture of intellectual inquiry and selfless scholarship."

Nikhil Agarwal, an Exeter, New Hampshire resident, has been a Berwick Academy student since first grade. He has been inducted into both the Cum Laude Society and the National Spanish Honors Society and is a four-year member and co-captain of Varsity Tennis. He also edits the Berwick Cornerstone, the school newspaper, and is a member of numerous clubs including Mock Trial, debate, and Model United Nations, and the poetry club. A recipient of two departmental recognition awards and the Johns Hopkins book award, Nikhil is also passionate about helping others as a Student Leader of the Inspiration Commons and a peer tutor. Last year, he completed an Innovation Pursuit centered around understanding and constructing electrostatic generators.

Elijah D'Aran, hailing from South Berwick, Maine, has attended Berwick Academy since sixth grade, and has during that time worked hard to become a member of the National Latin Honors Society as well as the the Tri-M Music Honor Society. In addition to his schoolwork, Elijah is a central member of Berwick’s theater department, participating in the fall dramas and winter musicals, and has completed an innovation project focused on teaching local students about fun and interesting scientific concepts. Additionally, Elijah was elected Student Life Coordinator in his junior year at Berwick Academy, a position he continues to hold this year.

Sam Faasen, of Dover, New Hampshire, has attended Berwick Academy since ninth grade. He is a four-year member of the Visual Arts department, participating in the winter musical each year, and has been inducted into the National Thespian Society. He is a co-founder of the a cappella group Low Key, and solos as a member of the a cappella group Celtic Storm. Sam is a four-year member of the soccer team; playing varsity his sophomore, junior, and senior years, and a captain his senior year. He is also a four-year member of the crew team, winning the novice award his freshman year, and holding the stroke position in the varsity one boat his junior year. He has been inducted into the National Latin Honor Society, and received a Departmental Recognition award in math and the Chemistry Medal his junior year. Sam was nominated and has been a student mentor as a SWAT (Student Wellness Advising Team) leader his junior and senior years, and has been a Head Tour Guide since his sophomore year. Sam also participates in the Peer Tutor program and the Math Team. Outside of school, Sam enjoys volunteering in the local community as a mentor for the theater program at the Dover Middle School.

Zachary Greenspan, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, has attended Berwick Academy since fifth grade. He has been a member of the Varsity Tennis team since freshman year and a captain since his junior year. Zachary has been inducted into the National Latin Honors Society and participates in numerous clubs including Mock Trial and Model United Nations in addition to co-leading the debate team and astronomy club. As a Student Leader of the Inspiration Commons and volunteer at the University of New Hampshire Observatory, he is dedicated to helping and enriching other members of his community. Recently, Zachary completed an Innovation Pursuit surrounding the design and construction of a faster, more efficient Rubik’s cube. He is looking forward to studying physics in college once he graduates.

Brett Starr, of Rye, New Hampshire, came to Berwick Academy as a freshman. He has participated in JV and varsity soccer as well as varsity swimming for four years. He plays the flute in both the Symphonic Band and the Jazz Band, and is currently learning to play the violin. He has been involved in student government for three years as class representative, class president, and, most recently, student body president. Throughout his junior and senior years he has been a sitting member of the Honor Committee. He is also the co-editor of The Vernacular, Berwick’s literary magazine. He has received two Departmental Recognition awards, one in English and one in history, as well as the Harvard Book Award. During his sophomore year, he was inducted into the National Spanish Honor Society, and the following year he joined the Cum Laude Society.

Berwick Academy

Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 600 students, Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves. Founded in 1791 and rooted in a tradition of college preparation, our culture of innovation prepares students for a complex and dynamic world.