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NSA student receives rare honor

David Leber is good for the money.

Leber, a senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, was awarded a corporate-based National Merit scholarship, sponsored by BASF, and will join the prestigious ranks of high school students who are National Merit scholarship recipients.

“David is a talented student who has continued to demonstrate outstanding academic potential by his strong performance in this highly competitive program,” NSA Upper School Headmaster Brenda Kinkaid said. “We are so very proud of his accomplishments and hard work, and hope this recognition will enhance his educational and professional opportunities.”

Of the 1.5 million students who entered the 55th annual National Merit Scholarship program, and the 8,200 merit finalists, Leber is one of only 1,000 students chosen to receive a corporate-based scholarship.

Leber will be using the scholarship to study chemical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, a school he chose after a year of college hunting. Chemical engineering, he said, is an area of study he has found to suit his intellect and personality.

“When I was a kid, my inspiration was Gyro Gearloose — the crazy scientist from Duck Tales comics,” Leber said. “Now, my favorite classes are chemistry and physics. I like solving problems and twisting my brain to fit the different paths I need to go down, which is what chemistry lets me do. At the same time, I like engineering, because it’s practical problem solving. You can see the results in front of you.”

Leber said he is thankful for the scholarship, because “it definitely helps my parents out, and I’ll be able to devote more time studying instead of working to try and pay my tuition off.”

Since it was founded, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has awarded more than $1.3 billion through more than 335,000 scholarships to students and recognized more than three million students for their academic achievements across America.

Every year, students who take the Preliminary-SAT, usually completed in a student’s junior year, have the opportunity to enroll in the scholarship program. The top third of the highest-scoring students are selected as semi-finalists.

Information from test scores, extra-curricular activities and a student’s community activity and school leadership essay are factors in choosing the top 15,000 students as finalists. From the finalists, 8,200 students are selected to receive scholarships.

“David is a very smart individual and a very curious individual,” said NSA chemistry instructor Richard Percefull. “I’ve been his instructor his sophomore and junior year. He wants to know more than what is being taught and is willing to do the extra work to do it. He has that double punch. He’s not just smart. He wants to know more.”

Leber is one of three NSA students named as National Merit finalists. Additional announcements for college-sponsored scholarships and National Merit $2,500 scholarships will be made by the corporation in May.