By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – For a high school student, senior year brings with it pivotal life decisions. The roller coaster ride spanning from late August to mid-June provides a vast array of experiences from senior night athletics, to prom, to deciding his or her future beyond school.
Michael Romney, a senior at Lone Peak High School is riding that roller coaster in his final year, and recently earned the distinction of semifinalist for the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program.
“It just shows our school’s awesome, right?” the 16-year-old Romney said. “Our teachers and all of our programs are really awesome, so I think that’s the main takeaway. For a small Class-C school in Montana, it just doesn’t really happen.”
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation annually awards roughly 7,600 scholarships worth about $30 million to high school students in the spring semester of their senior year.
LPHS students in grades nine through 11 take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test each year, according to Dr. Marlo Mitchem the middle and high school principal of the Big Sky School District. When a student reaches their junior year, they are eligible to qualify for the NMSP and last year Romney scored well. He was recognized in early September as a semifinalist for the 2021 NMSP.
“I thought that I could actually, potentially get this so I kind of worked hard on it,” he said.
Romney was one of more than 1.5 million students nationwide to complete the PSAT with only the best scoring students—approximately 16,000—advancing to the semifinalist pool, according to an NMSC press release.
Now, he awaits a February notification to see if he has been selected as a finalist for the program. According to the release, finalists are chosen based on a “… Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, and write an essay.”
Romney, one of just 47 semifinalists in Montana, has compiled an academic resumé with numerous extracurricular activities to submit in hopes of becoming a finalist and receiving a scholarship.
A student-athlete who competes for LPHS on the soccer pitch and on the basketball court, Romney is the senior captain and goalkeeper and also plays for the Montana state soccer team. When he’s not partaking in athletic competitions, he’s also a member of the LPHS a capella group and performs in the school’s musical programs. Outside of school-based activities, Romney is an avid skier.
In the classroom, he’s a member of the Executive Council for the LPHS student council as well as the President of the LPHS chapter of the National Honor Society. Romney’s also a participant in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and an anchor of the LPHS student newscast.
“Michael is a scholar, a student-athlete, a talented musician, and a leader in and outside of the classroom,” Dr. Mitchem said in an email to EBS.
Romney said his parents have suggested throughout his life that he may be engaging in too many activities, a claim he tends to shrug aside.
“I’m just kind of trying to figure out stuff that I like and I think it’s super beneficial to be kind of overwhelmed,” he said. “We really perform well … under busy and even stressful situations so I kind of try to create [challenges] for myself. I definitely suggest do everything that you can and then figure out what you like.”
Romney takes a humble approach to his successes and noted that he isn’t the only Big Sky resident with a full plate. He said he’s thankful for his teachers and the school district for helping him reach the position he’s in.
“Michael has had a significant impact on the BSSD community,” Dr. Mitchem said. “[He] is an excellent role model for other students at our school because he is curious, respectful towards others and incredibly hard working.”
Looking ahead to his future, Romney said in advance of the November college application deadlines that he’s applying to a number of universities but hasn’t yet identified his first choice. Front runners, he says, include Duke and a few Ivy League schools.
While he recognized the importance of continuing his academic journey, that isn’t all that he’s looking forward to when he transitions to secondary education next fall. “I think college should be kind of an experience, so I’m definitely looking for that too,” he said.
Dr. Mitchem has worked with Romney to submit his completed scholarship application and both have high hopes that he’ll be named a finalist.
“He is more than deserving of this scholarship,” she said.