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Stevensville’s 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist has lofty goals
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Stevensville’s 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist has lofty goals

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Stevensville High School’s 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist has a lofty goal of studying aviation and becoming a commercial pilot. He used his quarantine time (due to COVID-19) to earn his private pilot’s license.

Senior Michael Zielinski did exceptionally well on the tests and is completing the paperwork necessary to be a National Merit finalist, eligible for more scholarships.

“It’s also a really good thing to put on college applications,” Zielinski said. “For me the SAT and the PSAT weren’t really that hard.”

He enjoys reading, his favorite subjects are math and English, and he praised SHS for preparing him for life.

“Stevensville offers a lot of Advanced Placement courses and I’ve taken AP government, AP statistics, AP calculus and AP U.S. history,” Zielinski said. “You earn college credits if you pass the tests.”

He has passed all the tests.

“Also, the small classes are nice, especially the AP classes, because I get more one-on-one with the teacher and can get more involved with the discussion,” he said. “Right now there are five us in the class and more opportunity to ask questions.”

SHS vice-principal Eric Larson praised Zielinski as a strong student.

“He really exemplifies the qualities of being in Jacket Nation,” Larson said. “He is always upbeat, positive, dedicated and a hard worker. He is always involved and always has a smile. Even through the smoke and construction he’s giving his best no matter what. He’s an awesome kid who is articulate and thoughtful.”

Zielinski earned his Eagle Scout in 2016 by building a new structure for the bell that was at Lewis and Clark Park. He painted it the original color, made a plaque for it and relocated it at the museum.

“We think that bell was the old fire bell,” he said. “From what I could find, long ago it was in the building that is now a library, but was a grocery store.”

For extra-curricular activities, Zielinski is in cross-country and track and has competed in high school basketball.

Zielinski is looking beyond high school and has visited aviation colleges in Arizona and North Dakota. He earned his private pilot’s license with the Ray Aviation Scholarship from the Missoula chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. He is a Cadet Major in the Civil Air Patrol and a Cadet Commander of the Missoula squadron.

“The scholarship paid for the entirety of my license, the training, the ground school and plane rental,” Zielinski said. “I’m hoping to apply for more scholarships from the Experimental Aircraft Association so I can get different ratings past the private pilot.”

Zielinski said he feels compelled to be in the air and “just likes to fly.”

“I like the feeling of being in the air and being able to see everything,” he said. “It is great knowing you can do whatever as you can move in the three different plains rather than just one like in a car.”

Nationwide, over 1.5 million juniors entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®). Approximately 16,000 of those students qualified to be semifinalists, nearly 50 of them in Montana, in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. About 15,000 of semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing and earn the merit scholar title.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation was established in 1955 as a nonprofit organization that operates without government assistance and honors scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence. The program honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, with information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. The semifinalist must be endorsed and recommended by a high school official and write an essay.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2021 will be announced between April and July. There have been 353,000 merit scholars since the program began.

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