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Well-Rounded National Merit Semifinalists Announced

October 30, 2018

Two seniors from The Colorado Springs School (CSS) have qualified as Semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Luke Williams '19, National Merit Semifinalist Sabrina Jackson and Luke Williams are two of the 16,000 high school seniors in the nation who have the opportunity to continue forward in the competition for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships which will be awarded next spring.

But accomplishments like these are years in the making, as these two have shown exceptional skills throughout their time as students.

When asked about their journey to becoming Semifinalists, both Sabrina and Luke agreed that the teachers who have inspired their educational journey the most are the ones who have presented them with the most challenges.

Sabrina, who has attended CSS since PreK, recounted her journey through the years and talked in particular about Amos White, a middle school history teacher at CSS.

“His classes were the hardest I had up to that point but they were also the most interesting. That made me realize that even though a class is hard, it can still be fun,” Sabrina said.

As for White, he was always impressed by Sabrina’s performance in the classroom. “She was one of those quiet students who always had insightful things to say,” White recalls, “and her sense of humor was very fun. She was truly one of the top students in her class.”

White made note of Sabrina’s ability to go above and beyond in any work she was assigned, complementing her writing skills and her semester-cumulating ancient civilization project.

Sabrina Jackson '19, National Merit Semifinalist The rigors of middle school prepared Sabrina for high school. Over the years she has racked up many prestigious awards including The Colorado School of Mines’ Medal of Achievement in Math and Science awarded to high school students.

This spring, Sabrina will have the opportunity to put her skills to the test in Iceland, where she will be examining and developing energy sources. While there, Sabrina and 19 other students will develop the tools to evaluate a society’s energy choices while considering the cascading economic, environmental, and societal ramifications of such choices.

But before her Icelandic seminar, Sabrina will first finish out the fall semester and advanced placement (AP) courses she is taking. She is enrolled in four AP classes: Calculus, computer science, microeconomics, and physics. These college-level courses provide an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. In particular, Sabrina enjoys her calculus class that is taught by Greg Johnson.

“She works hard consistently,” Johnson said. “She quietly asks insightful questions when needed, and she is always interested in connecting the dots between intellectual concepts and disciplines.”

Luke is also used to the challenges and academic pace of AP classes. This semester alone he is taking a total of five advanced placement classes: History and geography, calculus, computer science, microeconomics, and physics.

“I think for this year, economics is probably one of my favorite classes,” said Luke. He also discussed his physics class saying that although it is the most difficult class he is taking, it is by far the most engaging.

“To Luke, each new question or concept is merely an extension of the foundational patterns that he has already established,” Johnson, who also teaches physics, said.

In the spring Luke will travel with 22 students to apply their knowledge of physics while sailing a tall ship. His teamwork and interpersonal skills will also be put to the test during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

While aboard for ten days, Luke and his peers will learn seamanship skills, coastal navigation, small boat handling, marine biology, oceanography, and the plethora of meanings that have been projected onto the sea. Each day the students will be given a new role on the ship and participate in daily discussions and readings related to tales of the sea, physics of sailing, wave mechanics, ship operations, snorkeling, and sea kayaking.

As for Dr. Paul Young, Luke’s Economics teacher, he has no doubt that Luke is prepared for a dynamic world.

Luke is a talented and bright student who understands both the theoretical ideas in economics but also can connect these ideas to current events,” Dr. Young wrote, “In addition, Luke is an excellent communicator, and [someone] who can digest academic ideas and concepts quickly and then explain them to others.”

To further their success as students, Sabrina and Luke draw on their other and hobbies and talents. Sabrina plays on the varsity tennis team and is involved in the band. She is also a part of a local robotics club. Luke is involved in theater and captains the schools’ varsity soccer team. He also grew up playing baseball.

Luke attributes his ability to focus on his sports background.

“I used to play baseball,” Luke recounts. “I was a pitcher for most of that and as a pitcher, there’s an 8x10 box you have to focus on. You have to drown out the fans on both sides, it takes years of practice, but it paid off.”

His sports background has also helped him to thrive in settings with background noise, finding it easier to study at busy coffee shops or at home with the T.V. on.

Sabrina, on the other hand, finds the quiet of her room the easiest spot to study and do homework. She eliminates distractions by practicing self-discipline.

Both students have been working hard to finish off their senior year, looking forward to the coming future.

Luke, who has his eyes set on the University of Pennsylvania, is looking forward to engaging in the high caliber education offered at the university. Sabrina, who attended a summer engineering program at MIT, is determined to spend her next educational journey in Cambridge.

As for now, Sabrina and Luke have their eyes set on the finish line; determined to finish the race strong. Although their road to Semifinalists has been very different, no matter where they land after CSS, the faculty has no doubt that success is in the future for these two seniors.

“We are incredibly proud of Sabrina and Luke. At CSS, we create a college prep environment and guide students to new interests and develop passions,” said Head of School, Aaron Schubach. “While we don’t emphasize standardized test scores, the in-depth of classroom content and seminar-based teaching does translate to top test scores and top college placements year-over-year for our students.”

Luke Williams '19, National Merit Semifinalist
Sabrina Jackson '19, National Merit Semifinalist