LHS Scholars Comment On Their Success

Four Lakewood High School seniors scored in the top one percent of U.S. high school seniors in the National Merit Scholarship competition and earned recognition as National Merit Semi-finalists for 2011. Three other students were named Commended Scholars by the National Merit Foundation. These students are each an example of the excitement of learning that engages a young, active mind. At the same time, they represent the high quality education available at Lakewood Public Schools.

Brian Brink, Michael Pizzo, Kevin Ritter and Carter Strong are the National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalists and Charles Kemp, Anne Latsko and Bethany Zettler are National Merit Commended Scholars from Lakewood High School for the class of 2011. On October 7, a group of these students gathered with Kathleen Baylog, Lakewood High School Gifted Coordinator, and discussed their experience of this honor.

All of the young people in the group attended Lakewood Public Schools in elementary and middle school. Many participated in the Gifted and Talented program and acknowledged the program provided a sound basis for achievement.  Brian Brink credited the Gifted and Talented Program with teaching him how to think and work through a problem. He summed up his early education by saying, "All of my opportunities came from Lakewood Public Schools. They provided good curriculum to help me prepare." When asked whether they have always enjoyed learning, the group voiced a resounding "Yes!"

Introduction to these scholars gives a broad definition of "achievement." Carter Strong carried his viola into the meeting room and descirbes himself as being without academic ambition. He says he focuses on the things that interest him and does not adhere to a prescribed academic track. This flexibility has served him well as he has followed an atypical education path since middle school.

Several of the students described themselves as learning for the sake of learning. Kevin Ritter observes that a successful student is not necessarily the student with the most AP (advanced placement) classes. Rather, he defines a successful student as one who takes courses that are of most interest to themsellf and to whom extracurricular activities are just as important as academics.

Anne Latsko emphasizes the rewards of relationships at school. She recalls her decision to forego AP physics in order to take band because of the people in the band. She appears to have had no second thoughts. This theme of students choosing the thing that gives them the most satisfaction was shared by all members of the group as they described a range of interests. The scholars are active in service organizations like H2O, Student Council and National Honor Society. One scholar swims all year around and another tutors younger children in math. Outside of school, their activities include participation in church mission trips and part time employment.

These students approached the PSAT with a mixture of confidence and trepidation. Although she knew that winning a National Merit Scholarship was a goal, Bethany Zettler recalls the importance of a pep talk she received from her father prior to going into the test. The students also expressed a degree of comfort with test taking. Kathleen Baylog explains that because Lakewood High tests frequently, students are less likely to be intimidated by high stakes standardized tests. "You know more than you think you know," she said.

Designation as a National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalist begins when a student registers for and takes the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) in the sophomore or junior year of high school. There does not appear to be a "one size fits all" approach to preparation for the PSAT although the scholars agreed they received support and encouragement from Lakewood High.  Several of the students took the SAT as early as the 7th or 8th grade, which is an option for high-achieving students; Lakewood High encourages students to take the test at one or more of the earlier stages.

Lakewood High encourages all juniors to take the PSAT. Ms. Baylog says "We have a lot of bright kids in Lakewood and I would like to see more of our high-ability students take the test as a sophomore or junior."

Lakewood High School has a total enrollment of between 1800 and 1900 students. One student was named a Semi-finalist and two students were named Commended Scholars last year. There were six Semi-finalist students and four Commended Scholars in the class of 2009.

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Volume 6, Issue 21, Posted 8:25 AM, 10.21.2010