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PHS Senior Is National Merit Semifinalist

Portland High School senior Liam Fay-LeBlanc has been named a Semifinalist in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program. Liam now joins other academically talented high school seniors nationwide who have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

“Congratulations to this outstanding student for achieving this well deserved recognition!” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “I credit Liam for his diligence and hard work, and I also want to give a shout out to his teachers and all the other supporters, including family, who play such key roles in our students’ success. Liam is exemplary of the high-quality education offered at our high schools, and I wish him the best as he continues in this competition.”

Liam is among just 51 Maine seniors named as Semifinalists in the 2023 contest. They are among approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide in this 68th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

The Semifinalists entered the 2023 competition as high school juniors by taking the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Of the roughly 16,000 Semifinalists, more than 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. Students who reach the Finalist level will be notified in February of this designation.

Of these Finalists, about half will go on to win a National Merit Scholarship and become National Merit Scholars. 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.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2023. 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 nearly 368,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.