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Four Fenwick Students Qualify as National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists

October 9, 2018

The Friars’ quartet is competing for 7,500 scholarships valued at more than $31 million; seven other students have received letters of commendation.

Fenwick’s Merit Scholarship semi-finalists and commended students (from left): Susan Zeh, Jacob Marchetti, Ian Havenaar, Nathan Fisher, Michael Dillon, Joseph Gaffigan, Avyn Alairys, Spencer Gallagher, Sophia Rodriguez, Emmett Husmann and Harper Daniels.


The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has announced those students who have qualified as semi-finalists in this year's Merit competition. Fenwick High School is pleased to report that it has four seniors who have qualified for this honor. Of the approximately 1.5 million students who sat for last year's PSAT/ NMSQT examination, these students placed in approximately the top 1%. Of the 16,000 semi-finalists, about half will be awarded a scholarship under the auspices of the National Merit program.

“Our seniors now move on to that phase of the competition,” says Richard Borsch, Director of College Counseling. “Congratulations to these four individuals, who bring great honor to themselves and significant recognition to Fenwick!” The four semifinalists from Fenwick, with their grade schools and cities of residence, are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Avyn Alairys (Oak Park, Glen Westlake Middle School)
  2. Michael Dillon (La Grange Park, St. Francis Xavier School)
  3. Nathan Fisher (La Grange, St. Francis Xavier School)
  4. Spencer Gallagher (Elmhurst, Visitation Grade School)

These academically talented seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be announced between April and July 2019. 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.

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition, according to NMSC. For each Semifinalist, the Fenwick administration will submit a detailed application providing information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received.

Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 410 business organizations as well as higher-educational institutions. Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered next spring. Every Finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by 230 corporations and business organizations for Finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

Based in Evanston, NMSC is a not-for-profit organization that has awarded scholarships to more than 330,000 deserving students since it was established in 1955.

7 ‘commended’

Seven other Fenwick students will receive letters of commendation along with approximately 34,000 other high school seniors from across the United States. These commended students placed among the top 50,000 scorers. “The young men and women being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success,” commented a spokesperson for NMSC. They are:

  • Harper Daniels (La Grange, Park Junior High School)
  • Joesph Gaffigan (Burr Ridge, Hinsdale Middle School)
  • Ian Havenaar (La Grange Park, St. Francis Xavier)
  • Emmett Husmann (Willow Springs, home schooled)
  • Jacob Marchetti (Forest Park, Ascension Catholic School)
  • Sophia Rodriguez (Wheaton, Edison Elementary) 
  • Susan Zeh (River Forest, St. Luke School)

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