O’Neil named National Merit Scholarship Finalist

Published 4:28 pm Monday, March 15, 2021

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By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Shaun O’Neil, a senior at Pelham High School, has been selected as a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which is a competition that provides recognition and scholarship opportunities to students throughout the nation.

As a finalist, O’Neil will have an opportunity to be one of approximately 7,600 students to win the National Merit Scholarship for $2,500 or access to corporate and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.

The competition is open to all U.S. high school students, who are then selected based on their Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores.

O’Neil credits his success through this competition to the dedicated teachers he has had and the friendly competition among other students in his classes.

“My ninth-grade English teacher Rebecca Burnett was the person who introduced me to the program, and she really pushed me and helped me prepare to take the test,” O’Neil said. “I also felt that each teacher I have had helped prepared me for the tests. The classes I took were challenging and rigorous, but I saw it as a way to challenge myself and test myself against the rest of my classmates and the nation.”

His hard work was noted by Pelham High School Counselor Brooke Self, who expressed her admiration for his dedication to academic success.

“Shaun is a very driven and dedicated student at Pelham High School,” Self said. “He is very disciplined and compassionate about his academics, involvement, and leadership while working very hard to achieve his goals. I believe that he would be an outstanding addition to any campus.”

O’Neil is an outstanding scholar and currently has a 4.4 GPA in his studies at PHS, and is currently ranked number one out of all 239 seniors at the school.

He has not yet decided which university he plans to attend, but among his choices are Samford University, Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University. He explained that he would like to study and pursue a career in the field of social services, and incorporate Christian ministries into his work.

O’Neil said that having an opportunity to represent PHS was an honor for him, and he is grateful to everyone who has helped him along the way, especially his teachers and fellow classmates.

“I feel like my teachers and my peers at school have created an environment of friendly competition where we push each other to be better students and enjoy it more,” he explained. “I think this environment has overall helped prepare me more for this.”