Out of 8,200 student, 7 finalists are from Park City | ParkRecord.com

Out of 8,200 student, 7 finalists are from Park City

Dale Thompson, Of the Record staff

The six National Merit Scholarship finalists from Park City High School are (clockwise from top left) Keaton Robbins, Andre Daenitz, Jeff Bolling, Scott Ruhnau, Yasmeen Hussain and Derek Painter.

The National Merit Scholarship Program has whittled down the number of finalists to 8,200 students, and seven of them are from Park City.

The Park City High School finalists are Keaton Robbins, Andre Daenitz, Jeff Bolling, Scott Ruhnau, Yasmeen Hussain, and Derek Painter.

Sam Burke, who attends the Winter Sports School, is his school’s first finalist.

There are three hurdles a student has to clear before being named a finalist.

The first is scoring well on the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test (PSAT), the second is completing an application process and the third is performing well on the SAT.

Students with top scores on the PSAT are selected as semifinalists and according to information about the competition published by the National Merit Scholarship Program they represent "less than one percent of each state’s high school seniors."

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Approximately 90 percent of the semifinalists advance to the finalist level where they become candidates for three different types of National Merit Scholarships. The first are 2,500 $2,500 National Merit Scholarships for which all of the finalists are eligible.

The second are approximately 1,100 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships and only finalists who meet donor-specified criteria are considered for those.

Finally, there are the 4,400 college sponsored Merit Scholarships. Only students who plan on attending the college that sponsored the scholarship are eligible for these awards.

While Keaton Robbins is still undecided about where to go to school or what to major in he says it would be nice to take a year off to do some backpacking and skiing in Canada.

Andre Daenitz has his eye on either the University of Utah or Cal-Tech for school where he would like to study physics. He is part of the Audio/Visual Club, jazz band and the National Honors Society.

"I just hope I get a scholarship," he said

Jeff Bolling, a saxophone player with the jazz band, is also president of the Model U.N. Club.

"I love this whole senior thing, everything is starting to fall into place," he said.

The National Merit Scholarship finalists from Park City are a normal bunch of teenagers, Bolling said.

"We’re eclectic in some sense, yes. There’s a real nice mix in the group but we’re not necessarily an academic powerhouse."

To students aspiring to be a finalist he offered a bit of advice.

"Immerse yourself in any opportunity to learn something new," Bolling said.

He also gave credit to the community for the quality of his high school experience.

"To have such a top notch education, we really owe a lot to the community," Bolling said.

Scott Rahnau, who wants to be a doctor, recently received a full tuition scholarship to Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

"It’s one of the most exciting things. This is what I’ve been waiting for," Rahnau said.

At his tour of Baylor University they gave him a belt buckle, something he said he was very happy about.

For him, becoming a finalist doesn’t mean keeping your shoulder to the grindstone.

"Don’t take yourself too seriously," he said.

Yasmeen Hussain participates in a number of extra curricular activities including fencing, jazz, the Social Justice Club and is a board member for Park City Singers.

"I get a lot of fun out of it," she said of all her activities.

She would like to have another year of high school because there were a lot of classes she never had the opportunity to take, including anatomy.

It’s "exciting" for her to be named a National Merit Scholarship finalist and she told future finalists to "do as much as you can, I try to get involved in anything," she said.

Her busy schedule leaves time for little else.

"I actually do all my work, I just don’t sleep," she said.

Derek Painter is President of the Gay-Straight Alliance Club, participates in Academic Decathlon, National Honor Society and is also a math tutor.

He’s happy to be a National Merit Scholarship Finalist but is looking forward to having money for college.

"It’s neat, it’s a pretty prestigious award but I’m more excited about the scholarships," he said.

He said the PSAT he took to qualify as a semifinalist seemed easy.

"It was pretty much a standardized test, we’re kind of sick of scantrons," he said noting how much people in high school are tested these days.

He also had some advice for students hoping to be a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

"Have fun with it, (and) have a sense of humor," he said

Sam Burke of the Winter Sports School was unavailable for comment.

In an interview with The Park Record last September, Sam’s father Nick said he was surprised to be a semifinalist.

Now, as the first National Merit Scholarship Finalist from the Winter Sports School, Sam is humble about his success.

"He would tell you he’s not smart, he just tests well, but he works pretty hard," Nick said.

Head of the Winter Sports School, Rob Clayton said Sam is an "exceptional" student and thinking about studying history at the University of Aberdeen.

"I think it’s tremendous," Clayton said. "I just hope he makes it to where he gets the scholarship, I’ve got my fingers crossed."

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