Matt Gennarelli, Ryan Knowles and Andrew Knowles with Brenden Cusack and Guidance Director Jeannette Alomia.

Terrific Trio Named National Merit Finalists

Matt Gennarelli, Ryan Knowles and Andrew Knowles with Brenden Cusack and Guidance Director Jeannette Alomia.

February 14, 2020

A terrific trio of Huntington High School seniors has been named finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship program.

Matt Gennarelli, Andrew Knowles and Ryan Knowles are now among the heady ranks of an elite circle of United States seniors. They have all excelled across every academic discipline and have repeatedly been recognized with awards.

Mr. Gennarelli is still finalizing his college plans. He intends to study either computer science or engineering. Andrew Knowles will be attending Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It is one of the top research colleges in the world. Ryan Knowles is headed to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The school was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson.

The teenagers are among a select group of 15,000 academically high powered American seniors. The two Huntington finalists were each presented with a certificate by high school Principal Brenden Cusack on behalf of the National Merit scholarship program. Beginning in April and concluding in July, about 7,500 finalists will be notified they have won a scholarship award.

Financial awards include $2,500 National Merit scholarships; corporate sponsored scholarships; college sponsored scholarships. The program is supported by more than 400 independent sponsors and the National Merit Scholarship Corp.’s own monies. About $31 million dollars are available this year.

“All National Merit scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists,” according to the organization. “Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.”

The National Merit scholarship program, which dates to 1955, provides recognition and scholarships for top students. About 16,000 seniors advanced to the semi-final round of the competition and another 34,000 students received letters of commendation.

The 65th annual National Merit competition drew more than 1.5 million teenagers from 22,000 high schools. The students “entered the 2020 National Merit program by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants,” according to the National Merit website. “The nationwide pool of semi-finalists, which represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.”

In addition to high scores on the PSAT/NMSQT, National Merit scholarship competitors must also meet various stringent participation requirements. They are eventually assigned a “selection index” that is based on their critical reading, math and writing skills scores.