BHS seniors named National Merit finalists


By Ian Ferguson

Three Blaine High School seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) finalists, the most finalists Blaine has ever had in one year.

The NMSP honors students who score well on standardized testing and demonstrate academic achievement. Finalists are chosen based on PSAT scores, SAT scores, academic record, letters of recommendation from teachers and an application essay. The Blaine class of 2015 finalists are Taylor V’Dovec, Nikki Young and Jonathan Fakkema.

Young has accepted a full NMSP scholarship to attend the University of Central Florida. V’Dovec and Fakkema have both accepted scholarships to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. Young, whose family moved to Blaine from Texas in 2014, is active in drama and arts. V’Dovec and Fakkema are both athletes looking to continue playing sports in college; V’Dovec plays basketball, jumps the high jump and throws javelin, and Fakkema plays football, basketball and throws shotput and discus.

V’Dovec is leaning toward majoring in physics, and Fakkema said he thinks he will major in chemical engineering. Young said she hasn’t decided what her major will be.

“It’s just remarkable that our students have achieved these heights,” said Blaine High School principal Scott Ellis. “Of course it’s due to their hard work, abilities and inner drive, and as their principal I’m just proud as a peacock to see them go to four-year universities. I’m sure they’ll do fantastic things there, and I hope they move back to our community, because they’re all three great people.”

Of the approximately 3.2 million high school students graduating this year, only 15,000, or the top .5 percent, were named as NMSP finalists.

With about 150 students in grade 12, Blaine could expect to have one or two finalists over a three-year period based on the statistical average. Since 1974, 12 NMSP finalists have graduated from Blaine.

Two finalists graduated from Blaine in 1974 and two in 1998, but this is the first year three finalists have been named in one class.

“I’ve been here since 1999 and this is a strong class academically and socially,” said counselor Rick Vander Yacht. “It’s also a class that gets along very well.”

Vander Yacht pointed out that all three students achieved the honor without leaving campus to participate in Running Start classes at local colleges.

“That’s big, because they stayed right here, they are visible to underclassmen and the fruits of their labor serve as targets for younger students,” Vander Yacht said.

“It’s huge,” Ellis agreed. “I think it says you can go anywhere from here.”

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