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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Letter to the Editor
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Editor recognized as National Merit Semifinalist

With his academic achievements and persistent attitude, senior Austin Ward earned a high PSAT/NMSQT score to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist, Sept. 15. After taking the PSAT last October, Ward placed among the top 16,000 scores of the 1.5 million test-takers in America.

Since being recognized in September, Ward is completing an application to advance to Finalist standing. If he qualifies as a Finalist in February, he then will compete for scholarships as a National Merit Scholar.

To achieve this honor, Ward addressed his previous PSAT score, picked out his weakness and aimed to overcome the problem.

“After I found out my score on the PSAT of my sophomore year, I knew that National Merit recognition was within my grasp,” Ward said. “When it came time to take the test again during my junior year, I studied math to raise my score on that section, since it had been my weakest on the previous test. Between preparing for math and strengthening my overall skills through classes, I felt that I was capable of making the cut. And it turns out that I was.”

Academic adviser Molly Sargent has observed Ward’s motivation for excellence, and views it as the key to his accomplishments.

“Only students who have ambition along with natural abilities reach for levels of anything,” Sargent said. “Lots of people have ability, but no drive. Austin has ambition, drive and goals. I’ve never known him to back away from anything, whether it’s a challenge or making a new friend, academic or personal. I don’t see Austin as being afraid of anything.”

Ward attributes success to his hunger for knowledge in every area of academics, and learns from every experience possible.

“Curiosity has been the driving factor of my academic pursuits. I try to learn as much as I can in school because I am genuinely interested in almost all subjects,” Ward said. “Underneath it all, I have this nagging urge to understand the world around me. I love to take what I have learned and apply it to form a more accurate picture of the way things are.”

Journalism adviser Greg Stobbe has witnessed Ward’s dedication through The Feather Online. As News Editor his sophomore year, Senior Editor his junior year and Editor-in-Chief now in his senior year, Ward has shown a number of positive traits and leadership skills, Stobbe says.

“When much is given, much is expected and a high level of achievement is often the result,” Stobbe said. “While Austin exhibits a classic example of a young leader honing his skills, he is unwilling to wait for a successful future. He creates it every day, and it shows by the willingness of his peers to follow him. His ambitious pursuit of integrity, excellence and truth — coupled with a spirit of humility — defines Austin and empowers the staff.”

When it comes to club participation, Ward has thrown himself into many roles of responsibility. He served as president of Spanish Club last year, and as the secretary/historian of California Scholarship Federation (CSF) for three years now. This year, he and fellow senior Ricky Lopez founded the Planeteers Club, an environmentally focused service organization.

“He [Austin] is willing to take leadership responsibilities, and not everyone is. That is another sign of merit,” Sargent said. “For the last three years, Austin’s been an officer in CSF, and centrally important to the success of last year’s conference. He and Suzanna [Quiring, ’10] were incredibly important.”

Despite the school’s small size, Sargent recognizes that FC is able to compete at a national level.

“Kids who get to finals are less than 1 percent nationally, so the odds against it are pretty big,” Sargent said. “There’s only nine who are even nominated for this honor in Fresno County, and last year there were only six. It puts our school at an elite level.”

Ward also recognizes the advantages of the school’s opportunities. Through these resources, he has been challenged to excel and take on new challenges.

“Although intelligence is certainly an important factor in being able to earn high scores on standardized tests, I think that education is perhaps more important,” Ward said. “There are some excellent teachers at FC who have stretched my abilities and helped me to accomplish my goals. I credit them for providing me with a superb grounding in mathematics, English and other areas that has enabled me to succeed.”

After observing his intellect, Ward’s father, John, has confidence that his son will accomplish great things in life.

“He appears to be on the path, and clearly has the potential, to become a genuine scholar and make a contribution to society that most of us only dream about,” John said. “Scholar is not a term I use loosely. He is driven, and has a quest for knowledge unlike few 18-year-olds. Graduate school is already on his radar.”

Last year, alumna Elizabeth Grossman qualified as a National Merit Scholar. Looking back on his former classmate’s success provides Ward with confidence, which he hopes to pass on to current juniors and underclassmen.

“The fact that Elizabeth qualified last year reassured me that achieving National Merit recognition is a tangible goal,” Ward said. “In the same way, I hope that my qualifying will inspire current juniors — or even underclassmen — to work hard and achieve high scores as the PSAT approaches in October. Even a little practice can make a huge difference, so I would encourage all test-takers to prepare as much as they can.”

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