Scholars’ group names senior Commended Student

Avadar Brownlee’s PSAT score as a sophomore qualified her for recognition by the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Posted on 09/23/2021
Avadar Brownlee qualified as a Commended Student for her outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in 2020, when she scored 1400.By Gary Weckselblatt

Another Quakertown Community High School senior is being recognized for her exceptional academic promise by the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Avadar Brownlee qualified as a Commended Student for her outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in 2020, when she scored 1400. Earlier this month, Avinash Paul was recognized for qualifying as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist.

“Avadar’s accomplishments are a testament to her hard work, and the outstanding job our teachers are doing in the classroom,” Principal Mattias van't Hoenderdaal said. “Her schedule is loaded with varied Advanced Placement courses to help her discover her interests and develop her skillsets. This work will put Avadar in a position to excel at the college level and beyond. I’m proud of her for challenging herself and for setting a fine example for our students.”

Indeed, Avadar’s list of classes allows no time for senioritis. She is taking six AP classes this year: Environmental Science, Computer Science Principles, Calculus BC, European History, Government and Literature. By the end of the school year, she will have completed 14 college level courses in her time at QCHS. 

“Picking classes in subjects you have an interest in, even if it’s hard, helps you stay motivated,” she said. “If you enjoy learning, it makes it a lot easier.

“I really appreciate having been given the opportunity to explore my own interests and still have rigorous classes. I’ve had options to take multiple math and history APs. I’ve taken elective business classes to explore specific business topics. Even if it’s something you end up not liking, I figure at least I know I don’t want to take that in college.”

And speaking of life after QCHS, Avadar is including some well-known names in her college applications. The list included Tufts, Boston College, Princeton (her mom is an alumna, “It’s my dream school.”) and Yale (“maybe even more of a reach.”)

Andrew Boquist, Avadar’s AP Government teacher this year and AP economics teacher last year, described her as a “very thorough, very diligent student. She’s able to take complex ideas and boil them down to key components. Economics is not about memorization, it’s about critical thinking. Avadar has shown the ability to perform college-level work that AP courses demand.”

Students entered the National Merit Scholarship Program, a nationwide competition for recognition and awards conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation, by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test offered in October 2020 and January 2021. Of the more than 1.6 million students who took the exam, the 50,000 highest scorers are being recognized. Approximately 16,000 of those high performers were recently designated National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. The next 34,000 achieve Commended Student status.

Since taking the qualifying test, Avadar scores have risen. She recently reached 1500 on the SAT. Her current GPA is 4.3.

After attending school virtually last year, Avadar said “coming back is a privilege.” She’s a member of Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America and Psychology Club.

One of her most enjoyable pursuits, though, is dancing. For 10 years she has been a member at Miss Cindy's School of Dance in Quakertown. “It's an example of something that I was terrified of starting (as an 8-year-old), but I am so grateful that I did,” Avadar said. “Dance is a community separate from school that I can rely on; I love how personal dance can be, and I really love the people. There have been years where I didn't believe I was good enough to continue, but thankfully, I kept working to get better and get over that fear. It helped me handle virtual school last year, kept me focused on my goals, and supported my mental health, too. I think it’s important to have something that takes your mind off of stress.”

Asked for advice she would give to younger students, she said “Success is putting effort into something and seeing yourself making progress and growing. It’s not about being first in your class or super average. Seeing yourself get better because of your own work is the most rewarding thing.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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