Five Portland Public Schools Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

Five high school seniors in the Portland Public Schools have been named Semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented students now have the opportunity to compete for about 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

The five Semifinalists are Portland High School seniors Liam Foley and Andrew Leonard; Deering High School students Aidan Blum Levine and Matthew Keast; and Casco Bay High School student Oscar McNally.

“Congratulations to these exemplary students!” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “This is the highest number of National Merit Semifinalists from the Portland Public Schools in more than five years. The credit goes to not only these hardworking students but to their teachers and other supporters, including their parents. I wish them the best as they continue on in this competition.”

These students are among 68 Maine seniors named as Semifinalists in the 2021 contest. There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide. Semifinalists were selected from a pool of more than 1.5 million high school juniors that entered the 2021 competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Of the 16,000 Semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. To become Finalists, Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be involved in school and community activities, show leadership abilities, be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm their  earlier performance on the qualifying test. Of those Finalists, about half will win a National Merit Scholarship and become National Merit Scholars.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2021. The National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and ending in July. These scholarship recipients will join approximately 353,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.

This story was submitted by Tess Nacelewicz Communications Coordinator for Portland Public Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email Rachel at