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Burnsville High School senior is a National Merit Finalist

Burnsville High School senior Sam Stanek has been named a National Merit Finalist.

He’s among fewer than one percent of U.S. 12th-grade students whose scores on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test have made them 2020 National Merit Semifinalists.

As a finalist, Sam will be considered for potential scholarships.

"Sam is the type of student that always understands, not just at a rudimentary level but the whole big picture,” said Bill Engelhardt, Burnsville High School social studies teacher. “Coupled with his incredible work ethic, he will go far in life!”

Sam, a former student at Nicollet Middle School and Vista View Elementary, is currently enrolled as a post-secondary enrollment option student (PSEO). PSEO is a program that allows 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students to earn both high school and college credit while still in high school, through enrollment in and successful completion of college-level, nonsectarian courses at eligible participating postsecondary institutions. This is Sam’s second year enrolled in PSEO.  

We caught up with Sam to ask him a few questions about his academics and future.

Q: Which teachers at BHS have motivated you in your coursework?

Burnsville High School teachers are great at motivating students to care about their own learning. My teachers have motivated me to learn by relating class material to the real world and explaining why it is important. For example, when I first signed up for AP World History, I was not excited about the class. I assumed the class would be a boring string of facts to memorize and recite. However, my world history teacher, Mr. Engelhardt, made the class interesting by illustrating the patterns seen in history and explaining what these mean for the future. This motivated me to learn and succeed in the course.

Q: What do you think motivates you to succeed academically?

I think that the ability to learn and develop new skills is helpful in all areas of life, so I have always been motivated to work hard to achieve academic success. Ever since I can remember I have been interested in math, science, history and literature. Being interested in these subjects makes it easier to learn about them, and learning leads to academic success. I see school both as a way to learn new things and as a path to success in life. 

Q: What are some of your interests outside of academics? 

Last year I competed at the USAPL High School State Championship as part of the Burnsville High School powerlifting team. I will compete again this year with the intention of qualifying for High School Nationals. Powerlifting has only been an organized sport at BHS for two years, so I am excited to see where it might go in the future. I have also been on the Burnsville High School trapshooting team for three years.

Q: What advice would you give to younger students to be successful in high school?

My advice to younger students is to figure out what success in high school could do for them. Many students are unmotivated because they do not know what they want to get out of high school. Burnsville High School does a great job by providing students with courses and skills that can prepare them for careers spanning a wide variety of interests. Creating a goal for the future and taking classes to help you achieve it can help students stay motivated even in courses that they do not like.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I will be attending the University of Minnesota Twin Cities at the College of Science and Engineering and majoring in computer engineering.

Q. What does this national distinction mean to you?

I see being selected as a semifinalist (now a finalist) as an opportunity to further my education. I am proud to be a semifinalist (now finalist) because it shows that I can achieve the goals I set. I hope it can help me in the future by increasing my college and career choices.

Story updated on Feb. 26, after finalists were announced. 
Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 15:30