Scholars achieve National Merit semifinalist status

Sunday Times Newspapers

Six local students have qualified as semifinalists in the 2012 National Merit Scholarship Program by scoring higher than 99 percent of other Michigan high school seniors on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Among the semifinalist seniors are Anna Brink of Dearborn High School, Dearborn residents Matthew Bustamante and Michelle Kerr of Divine Child High School, and Crestwood High School student Janice Murray.

Timothy Wesley, a Brownstown Township resident who attends Riverview’s Gabriel Richard High School, and Steven Pochini, who attends Anderson High School in Southgate were also among the semifinalists announced.

Semifinalists may advance to the finalist level based on their high school academic record, a recommendation from their principal, SAT scores and an application verifying the student’s participation and leadership in school activities.

Three types of Merit Scholarships are available.

The first type is a $2500 scholarship awarded on a state representational basis. They are not based on financial need, college choice or major.

The second type is corporate and business sponsored, and the third type is college or university awarded.

Scholarship finalist announcements will be made four times in 2012 between April and July. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation said about 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half are expected to be awarded a National Merit Scholarship.

For more information about National Merit Scholarships, go to

Anna Brink
Dearborn High School

Anna Brink of Dearborn High School is the daughter of Phil and Marg Brink of Dearborn. She hopes to attend Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids to study secondary education and become a math teacher.

She said she was inspired to become a teacher by some of her elementary school teachers at Dearborn Christian School, as well as two of her high school math teachers, Kim Shawver and Jennifer Gorsline at the Dearborn Center for Math, Science and Technology at the Michael Berry Career Center in Dearborn Heights.

She said she has always been inspired to work hard and study by her parents’ good example, and by her personal faith.

“I do everything to give God the glory, and so I want to do my best for Him,” Brink said.

She plays the flute and piccolo in both the regular and marching band at Dearborn High School and performs in concert with the Dearborn Youth Symphony.

She is also a member of the math club at DCMST, and is active with the youth group at Oakland Hills Community Church, an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Farmington Hills.

She also volunteers with Dearborn’s summer library reading program.

Janice Murray
Crestwood High School

Janice Murray of Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights’ Crestwood School District is the daughter of Kathy and William Murray.

She attended Dearborn Christian School for first and second grade, Dearborn’s Guardian Lutheran for fourth and fifth grade, and Riverside Middle School in the Crestwood School District for sixth through eighth grades.

She plans to earn at least a master’s degree in English with minors in music and chemistry. She would like to attend a private Christian college like Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind.

She said that attending private grade schools helped her develop a really good work ethic.

“I love reading. Books in general inspire me,” Murray said. “My parents support learning and they’re both well-educated and they actually like people to think so that really helps that they support me and help me to understand things.”

She said she enjoys playing flute in the regular and marching band, and about six months ago started playing trumpet in the school’s jazz band.

Her extracurricular activities include National Honor Society, Link Crew, and Quiz Bowl.

Link Crew is a team of high school upperclassmen who welcome incoming freshmen.

Murray is trying to get her youth group at Dunning Park Bible Chapel in Redford more involved with school volunteer activities.

Michelle Kerr
Divine ChildHigh School

Michelle Kerr of Divine Child High School is the daughter of Denise and Timothy Kerr of Dearborn. She has two older brothers she said are great role models.

“My family has been my inspiration,” Kerr said. “They support me in everything I do.”

She isn’t sure where she wants to go to college yet, but said she does want to pursue a career in the medical field so she can help people.

Kerr is captain of the school’s cross country team, and runs track. She is also active in the National Honor Society and the school’s medical club.

She volunteers her time to help with Gleaners Food Bank, and organized a project that brought her cross country team with her to help out for a day.

Kerr also volunteers at Burger School for Students with Autism in Garden City with members of her school’s medical club.

Her favorite class was anatomy and physiology, but she likes science classes in general, and enjoys her Advanced Placement calculus class at Divine Child.

“My philosophy is to work hard and have a lot of fun in life,” Kerr said.

Steven Ponchini
Anderson High School

Steven Pochini of Anderson High School in Southgate is the son of Steve and Kathy Pochini. He attended elementary and middle school at St. Pius School in Southgate.

He hopes to study business or law at the University of Chicago or the University of Notre Dame.

Social studies, history, and math are his favorite classes.

He runs cross country and track, and is a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a Christian organization involved in volunteer work and evangelism.

His focus is to work for a better future so that he can make a difference in the world and help others.

He said his parents and grandparents are his role models because they are hard-working and they have always looked out for him.

Timothy Wesley
Riverview Gabriel Richard High School

Timothy Wesley of Riverview Gabriel Richard High School is the son of Jeff and Beth Wesley of Brownstown Township. He attended Allen Park Public Schools, where his mother is a teacher, through his eighth grade year.

Computer science, engineering and science are some of the college majors Wesley is considering. He has a Chancellor’s Scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, but he has not yet ruled out the option of attending the University of Michigan on the Ann Arbor campus.

He enjoys his math classes at Gabriel Richard, and he studies computer science on his own.

Wesley ran cross country and track until ankle injuries changed his focus to the discus throw in the field events. He said he is now one of his team’s lead throwers.

He swam competitively while in middle school, and was sixth in the state in the 100-meter back stroke for his age category.

As treasurer of the school’s Ambassador’s Club, Wesley represents the school at open houses and other public functions.

He is also a member of the National Honor Society, is a biology lab assistant and is an afterschool aide for another teacher.

Wesley is a member of Our Lady of the Woods parish in Woodhaven.

He said he draws inspiration from a quotation of Thomas Paine, a U.S. patriot and political philosopher: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

Matthew Bustamante
Divine Child High School

Matthew Bustamante of Dearborn’s Divine Child High School is the son of Mark and Elaine Bustamante of Dearborn.

He said he is very interested in engineering, and would like to attend either the University of Michigan or Michigan Technological University. He is undecided about what type of engineering to pursue, and has considered aerospace, mechanical and civil engineering.

Math is his favorite subject in school, followed by physics.

He said he likes to figure things out – he finds it entertaining.

“I think it’s why I like math so much, because everything is so logical and straightforward,” Bustamante said. “I like seeing things another way.”

He plays tennis at Divine Child, and enjoys a good pickup game of street or ice hockey with his friends.

He also volunteers with his family at Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights, a non-profit residential and community-based treatment program for young women and their families facing multiple challenges.

“My goal in life is to be creative,” Bustamante said. “I come from a family of smart people: my dad’s a doctor, my mom was a physical therapist. My sister’s a doctor now, and my brother’s getting a PhD in engineering… but I feel that it’s not about how smart you are, it’s how creative you are.”