Weather Forecast


Bemidji High School students named National Merit Scholarship finalists

Bemidji High School seniors Erik Dreyer, left, and Levi Heath have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Two local high school students have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Bemidji High School seniors Erik Dreyer and Levi Heath learned this month they are among more than 15,000 national finalists.

Those finalists now are being considered as the National Merit program selects from 8,300 students to be named Merit Scholarships recipients.

Bemidji High School Principal Brian Stefanich, in his ninth year at the school, said he can’t recall BHS previously boasting two National Merit finalists in the same year.

“We’re usually fortunate to have one (finalist), so to have two in one year, we’re really fortunate,” he said.

While a Merit Scholarship is a possibility, the students said their respective colleges also will provide financial aid based on their academic performance and the designation as a National Merit finalist. They are awaiting their final scholarship amounts, to be announced this spring.

Heath, who has a grade-point average above a perfect 4.0, has opted to attend Concordia College in Moorhead.

His major is undecided at this point, but Heath has taken a few years of Spanish and said he’s developed a real interest in foreign languages.

Concordia, with its Concordia Language Villages, is a good fit for him, he said.

“I like that it’s a liberal-arts college because I don’t know specifically what I’d like to do yet,” Heath said, noting that his father and brother are both Cobbers as well.

Dreyer, who has a 4.0 GPA and has memorized 134 digits of Pi, said he likely will attend the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

He expects to study math or science, perhaps genetic engineering, and obtain a minor in math education.

Heath said he knew fairly early in his schooling that he was an above-average student, having always placed in more advanced classes or sections.

“Across the board (in subjects), I’ve been able to do well,” he said. “I tried to challenge myself, with advanced classes, and, overall, I’ve done well in all my classes.”

Dreyer said he didn’t immediately recognize his academic strengths until later in his schooling, noting that he felt average in elementary school.

“I’ve always favored math over everything else,” he said.

Both believed they had the potential to become a National Merit finalist, though Dreyer said more directly that he was expecting it.

“I’m the arrogant one,” Dreyer said, looking toward Heath and then back again. “He’s the more humble one.”

Heath didn’t object.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Heath said. “I took the PSAT thinking I had a chance at it, but I didn’t expect it. I just set out to do the best I could on it.”

Both seniors are active at BHS. Dreyer is captain of the Math League and takes part in Knowledge Bowl as well. Heath is captain of the Knowledge Bowl and is in Math League, Show Choir, National Honor Society, band, choir, jazz band and the link crew (through which upperclassmen welcome freshmen into the high school) and previously was in speech.

Dreyer and Heath were named semifinalists last fall.

About 1.5 million high school juniors took the 2010 Preliminary SAT, also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which is the initial screen of National Merit program entrants, according to the National Merit program.

Semifinalists were announced in September, representing less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors, according to the program.

About 90 percent of semifinalists are named finalists, or for this year, more than 15,000 of about 16,000 semifinalists, according to program literature. Finalists must demonstrate an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the principal and earn SAT scores that confirm their performance on the PSAT.