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Zachary Jones ’17.

It’s official. Saint Viator High School announced earlier this month that seniors Zachary Jones of Des Plaines, and Grace Nessen-Gilligan and Kaitlyn Solarz, both of Arlington Heights, have joined an elite group: They were named National Merit finalists based on their preliminary SAT scores taken in 2015.

Back in September, the three were named National Merit semi-finalists, but advancing to the final round required, even more, rigor. Students had to submit a record of their high academic performance, as well as SAT scores that confirmed their PSAT scores from sophomore year.

Grace Nessen-

Grace Nessen-Gilligan ’17.

They also had to complete a detailed scholarship application, with an essay and expanded information about activities, volunteer service, leadership positions, awards, and employment.

Finally, a school official had to write a recommendation about the character of these finalists.

Saint Viator Principal Eileen Manno said these students excel in and out of the classroom and have scored well on their pre-college testing in part because of their rigorous course work pursued at Saint Viator.

For starters, she points to the school’s commitment to its expanded Advanced Placement class offerings, equally focusing on content and skill development.

Solarz '17.

Kaitlyn Solarz ’17.

“The rigorous course of study offered to our students helps boost their performance on tests,” Mrs. Manno added.

In all, Saint Viator had 12 seniors recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program, including these nine commended scholars: Isabella Brown, Stephen Hannon and Patrick Harris, all of Palatine; Anthony Graffia of East Dundee, Alexander Horne of Buffalo Grove, Drew Morton and Paulina Piwowarczyk, both of Arlington Heights; Bryan Rapala of West Dundee and Alexandra Recht of Des Plaines.

Officials with the National Merit Scholarship Program said that the finalist pool represents the highest scoring entrants in each state or less than one percent of high school seniors.

Across the country, 15,000 National Merit finalists were announced this month—down from the original 1.5 million high school sophomores who took the SAT—and from this group, 7,600 National Merit Scholars will be chosen and awarded scholarships.

There are three types of scholarships awarded through the National Merit Scholarship Program:

  • National Merit® $2500 Scholarships
  • Corporate-sponsored scholarships
  • College-sponsored scholarships