by Kate Evans
Berkeley Springs High School graduating senior Matthew Leasure has been named as a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship winner and a National Merit Scholar.
His selection was announced on May 10. Leasure is one of 12 West Virginia students to receive the prestigious academic scholarship.
Leasure was previously selected as a National Merit Scholarship finalist in February. Finalist standing for the award is a rare and highly prestigious honor.
The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition for college undergraduate scholarships. Leasure’s award is supported by National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s own funds.
“Winners are the finalist candidates judged to have the strongest combination of academic skills and
achievements, extracurricular accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college
studies,” says the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
West Virginia’s Superintendent of Schools David Roach said those who received the honor are “among the top scholars throughout the country.”
In a May 12 press release from the state Department of Education, Roach congratulated the National Merit Scholars and U.S. Presidential Scholars from West Virginia.
West Virginia’s National Merit Scholarship Winners are:
Elijah A. Dillow of Jefferson High School, Jefferson County;
Garrett T. Ferguson of Frankfort High School, Mineral County;
Charles F. Frizzell of Central Catholic High School, Ohio County;
Carter T. Herron of Morgantown High School, Monongalia County;
Matthew W. Leasure of Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County;
Amy Lu of Morgantown High School, Monongalia County;
Rohan Malik of Parkersburg High School, Wood County;
Maxwell Oganian of Pocahontas County High School, Pocahontas County;
Jeeya Y. Patel of George Washington High School, Kanawha County;
Victoria K. Smith of Keyser High School, Mineral County;
Patrick R. Ward of George Washington High School, Kanawha County and
Thomas V. Ward of Capital High School, Kanawha County.
“These students have earned these esteemed awards and are to be commended for their academic excellence and their commitment to service,” said Superintendent Roach. “Each of them has earned the right to be called a U.S. Presidential Scholar or a National Merit Scholar – an honor they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
Leasure first learned in September that he was a semi-finalist for the scholarship due to his outstanding Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores from his junior year. More than 16,000 semifinalists were chosen nationwide from the highest scoring students on the PSAT/NMSQT test in each state.
Leasure said he was honored to be recognized as a National Merit Scholar. He will attend Gettysburg College this fall and will major in history. Leasure wants to be a high school history teacher. His special interest is American history.
Leasure is president of the Berkeley Springs High School National Honor Society, president of the Math Honor Society and president of the Student Council. He is also president of the senior class of 2023. Leasure has been involved in Teen Court for the last six years and also volunteers to unload food trucks for Starting Points. He enjoys reading.
Leasure was also the Berkeley Springs High School “Team Blue” captain at the 2023 West Virginia Academic Showdown. Team Blue won first place at the regional competition and came in sixth at the finals in Charleston.
Leasure placed in the All Tournament Team at the finals. The Academic All Tournament Team recognized top-performing tournament students.
Leasure also captained the Berkeley Springs High School academic competition team that placed in the top four at the 2022 West Virginia Academic Showdown State Championship in Charleston. The team earned a first-place finish at the regional Academic Showdown in 2022.
In 2019 Leasure was one of four Warm Springs Middle School “Team One” eighth graders who won the March, 2019 Region 8 History Bowl Tournament at Martinsburg High School.
Leasure also placed at the regional 2023 Math Field Day and was asked to attend the state Math Field Day as an alternate.
Leasure received the Berkeley Springs High School Academic Hall of Fame Award as a junior for having the highest SAT score in math on the SAT School Day exam. He was also one of three high school students that received the Academic Hall of Fame Award in 2022 for having the highest combined score on the SAT School Day exam in math and English.
Leasure was also honored as an Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar of Distinction last year-receiving an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken and scores of three or higher on five or more of these exams.
The scholarship process
To be considered for a National Merit Scholarship, each semifinalist had to complete a detailed scholarship application, including an essay and information about their extracurricular activities, awards, and leadership positions.
Semifinalists also had to have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirmed their qualifying test performance.
In February, more than 15,000 National Merit Scholarships finalists were selected. All finalists are considered for one of the National Merit Scholarship awards-the standard $2,500 scholarship, corporate-sponsored or college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships available. The awards total $28 million.
More than 7,140 finalists will be selected to receive one type of National Merit Scholarship award by the end of this year’s competition. Finalists learn of their scholarship standing in May and June.