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Three Fox Lane High School Students Named Semifinalists in 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program

Fox Lane High School seniors Erin Blake, Joseph Long, and Elias Owen have been named semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. The trio are among 16,000 seniors nationwide who will compete for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships. 

More than 1.5 million juniors entered the program by taking the PSAT earlier this year. According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of all high school seniors in the U.S.

In addition, Allison Burg, Sara DaCunha and Kaitlyn Park were honored as Commended Students, placing among the top 50,000 highest scorers in the country.

To advance to the next stage, Erin, Joseph and Elias must submit detailed applications, including information about their academic records, school and community activities, leadership abilities and more. Finalists will be notified in February and winners will be announced beginning in April.

Learn more about our semifinalists in the mini-profiles below.

 

headshot of Erin Blake Erin Blake

What was your initial reaction when you learned you were a semifinalist?

I was excited when I found out, but I didn’t fully understand what it meant and what my next steps were. 

What do you think helped you get to this place?

Back when the PSAT happened, I had already been in full swing for SAT prep. I practiced every day for the SAT, and since the PSAT is so similar, it was essentially preparation for the PSAT as well.

Are you involved in any clubs, sports or community groups?

Yes! I’m very involved at School of Rock Bedford and also am a part of some clubs at Fox Lane, like Rock Ensemble and Jazz Band.

It is early still, but do you have any plans for next year? 

I don’t know where I’ll be, but I’d like to pursue a dual degree in music composition and Spanish.

Do you have a favorite class and/or teacher?

My favorite class is performance technology, or p-tech. Mr. Piescki is a huge inspiration. His class has really helped me discover my passion for writing music. I’ve taken it every year of high school and love every moment.

Do you have a favorite school-related memory?

My favorite school-related memory is playing in the pit for the middle school musicals. It is so much fun to watch a performance go from really good to amazing and get to play a part in this incredible experience for the middle schoolers. I’ve done it twice now and I really hope that I can do it again one last time this year.

Do you have any advice for other students?

My biggest piece of advice to other students is that it is okay to not know how your life is going to turn out or what you’re going to be. 

 

headshot of Joseph Long Joseph Long

What was your initial reaction when you learned you were a semifinalist?

I was very excited to find out that I was a National Merit Semifinalist. I had done a bit of research after getting my PSAT score back, because I had heard from other older students that if you scored high enough on the PSAT, you would qualify. I saw that my score would have qualified me in 2019, so I suspected that the same might happen this year.

What do you think helped you get to this place?

I think multiple years of advanced math classes along with two years of advanced English classes helped me to gain the skills that are critical to success on the PSAT. 

Are you involved in any clubs, sports or community groups?

I am involved in multiple cubs at Fox Lane. I am a part of Bridges to Community, which focuses on donations and service trips to places like Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, I am a member of Youth2Youth which focuses on drug prevention in the community. I am also on the Varsity Golf and Ski teams. 

It is early still, but do you have any plans for next year? 

I do not yet have any plans for next year, but I know that I will most likely stay on the East coast and study science.

Do you have a favorite class and/or teacher?

Physics, Chemistry, and United States History have been my favorite classes in high school. I have had many amazing teachers in the past four years, so it is hard to pick just one.

Do you have a favorite school-related memory?

My favorite school-related memories are probably skiing with the ski team, golfing with friends on the golf team, and the multiple exciting labs we have done in chemistry.

Do you have any advice for other students?

My advice would be to be ambitious in high school. Join a sports team, a few clubs, and take classes that you know will challenge you. 

 

Headshot of Elias Owen Elias Owen

What was your initial reaction when you learned you were a semifinalist?

When I first learned that I was a semifinalist I was, of course, very excited. I was also a bit surprised.

What do you think helped you get to this place?

I think that I have gotten to this place because of the wonderful opportunities that have been presented to me. My teachers have always been extremely helpful, and I have had the chance to take so many thought-provoking classes over the years. Although hard work played a big part in where I am now, it was also the ability to have such a good education.

Are you involved in any clubs, sports or community groups?

Yes, I am a member of cross country and track teams. I also participate in art and chess clubs. 

I know it is early still, but do you have any plans for next year? 

I’m still working on getting everything ready for my college applications, but I do have a pretty clear idea of which schools I’m applying to. Once I get to college, though, I’m very interested in studying and doing research in neuroscience. While I plan to have a science-centric college career, I do want to continue to practice and take art and writing classes in college. 

Do you have a favorite class and/or teacher?

I would have to say that Mr. Kimmerle, who taught Pre-calculus Honors, has been my favorite teacher. Although the class was difficult, he taught it in a very engaging way that not only made the math easier to understand, but more interesting to learn about. 

Do you have a favorite school-related memory?

Walking around the nearly-empty school with my friends after cross country practice has always been a peaceful and fun school-related experience.

Do you have any advice for other students?

Hard work is, of course, important, but taking time for yourself and your mental health is infinitely more important. It is easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of some classes and some parts of high school. Remember to take time to relax and think about how you are doing mentally. If you feel like you’re in a bad place try to address that as soon as you can and make the changes in your life that need to be made to put you in a better place. Being mentally in touch with yourself and taking the steps to help your mental state will affect your future much more than your GPA ever will.