Student qualifies as National Merit Semifinalist

QCHS senior Michael Dennis is an aspiring teacher.
Posted on 09/10/2020
Photo of Michael DennisBy Gary Weckselblatt

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named Quakertown Community High School senior Michael Dennis a semifinalist in its prestigious program for 2021.

Michael is one of 16,000 semifinalists out of 1.5 million students who entered the program. His 1480 score on the 2019 Preliminary SAT, which served as an initial screen of program entrants, is achieved by fewer than one percent of today’s U.S. high school seniors.

“I don’t believe it’s really hit me yet,” Michael said of qualifying as a semifinalist. “I’m really surprised that I’m the only one in our high school to qualify because there are a lot of really smart people in the senior class. I know I’ve always done well at tests, and don’t feel pressure from standardized tests.”

Michael has an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for an award, Michael must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level. More than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

"I congratulate Michael on his achievement and determination,” Principal Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal said. “Michael is a bright young man who challenges himself with rigorous coursework while staying involved in the school community. This recognition is a well-deserved validation of his efforts."

A member of the track team, where he throws the discus and shot put, Michael is also a member of the National Honors Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Math Club and Technology Student Association.

Michael has already taken eight Advanced Placement courses, and is scheduled for four more this year: Calculus BC, Statistics, Government and English Literature. His AP grades have helped boost his GPA to 4.11.

While his academic numbers are off the charts, it hasn’t been easy. There have been struggles. He said math and English classes have been difficult and he’s learned “I need to adapt. I need to overcome challenges. I need to persevere.”

An aspiring math teacher (“there’s still a chance I might switch to teaching history”), Michael said he’s thankful for “a great group of teachers that want to see me grow, not just as a student but as a person.” He specifically praised Allen Hunsicker and Jason Anderson and counselor Doug Detweiler for his help with time management.

“I knew Michael was going to be a special math student because he scored the highest of all students as a sophomore in the first Math Club Pennsylvania Math League competition of the year,” Mr. Hunsicker said. I had the privilege of educating Michael his junior year in my AP Calculus AB class. I was able to challenge and motivate him during the course. Michael continued to work his hardest when school shut down in March, participated in my virtual lessons, and scored a 5 on the AP Calculus AB exam. I appreciate the hard work and dedication he has shown me throughout the course.”

Mr. Detweiler said “In all of my interactions with Michael, I have found him to be both teachable and respectable. I look forward to seeing Michael continue to achieve not only this year, but in college as well.”

A year ago, Melissa Nong qualified as a semifinalist and later became a finalist. Three other students, Ian Cummings, Tyler Einolf and Sierra Lee, each received a Letter of Commendation for their outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test. In 2019, Mikayla Fuentes and Adria Retter were finalists and Nam Le and Hailey Reiss were commendable.

QCHS will learn later this month if any students achieved commendable status.

In the meantime, Michael is considering attending Liberty University, where his brother Richard is a sophomore. This week he also visited Cairn University.

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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