Previous Brainerd High School graduates set the bar when they became National Merit Scholars, and now Johnathan Valesano and Jason Houle are on their way to being named top BHS graduates themselves.
The BHS seniors, who are longtime friends, were recently named National Merit Semifinalists, two of the more than 350 Minnesota high school students among 16,000 semifinalists who qualified nationwide to compete for the 50th annual 2005 National Merit Scholarship awards.
There are three types of scholarships worth about $33 million that will be awarded next spring.
Valesano, the 17-year-old son of Leslie and Robert Valesano of Brainerd, knew his PSAT scores were high enough to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist. It was still thrilling for him to be named a semifinalist.
"I'm pretty excited," said Valesano.
Valesano said he knew Parker Kienholz and Andrew Mehr, both 2005 BHS graduates who were named National Merit Scholars last spring, and felt the scholarship competition was something he wanted to be part of, too. So did Houle.
Valesano is ranked No. 7 among BHS seniors and is involved with Knowledge Bowl, tennis and Mock Trial. He is taking four two-semester advanced placement courses this year. Valesano said he is undecided where he plans to attend college but likely will major in something involving biological sciences. His GPA is about 4.16.
Houle, the 17-year-old son of Tim and Jeannette Houle of Baxter, is ranked No. 1 among BHS seniors. He is involved with Knowledge Bowl and tennis. His GPA is more than 4.3. Houle is taking five advanced placement courses this year and is hoping to attend MIT next fall. He is considering a degree in computer science and mathematics.
"It's pretty cool," Houle said, of being named a semifinalist. "After learning about the group that had it last year, it was definitely something that I wanted."
Less than 1 percent of each state's high school seniors qualify as semifinalists. Both Valesano and Houle have submitted essays and applications to become National Merit Finalist, whose names will be announced next spring.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.