POULSBO — When Neil Lockwood was called to the principal’s office recently, he got nervous.
“It was right in the middle of jazz class,” said Neil, a senior at North Kitsap High School. “I was really wondering what was up.”
When he reached the principal’s office, he saw Principal Megan Sawicki standing there, holding a letter.
“She said, ‘Congratulations. You’re a National Merit semi-finalist,”” Neil recalled.
Neil, 17, is the only student in the North Kitsap School District to be named a National Merit semi-finalist. And as a semi-finalist, he will now compete to become a finalist and scholarship money.
The National Merit Scholarship Program ranks the scores of students who take the PSAT/NMSQT test. About 1.6 million students in 22,000 high schools take the test and only 16,000 qualify as scholars.
“When I first heard, I was confused,” Neil said. “I forgot that I checked the box on the test that meant I would be competing in the scholarship program.”
Lockwood’s test score, which he took as a junior, was 1,460. A perfect score is 1,600. He received a $2,500 scholarship.
Now he’s busy submitting an application to be a National Merit finalist.
“It’s like a college application,” he said. “And then I have to write a short essay on someone who has impacted my life or an experience that was significant in my life. I haven’t decided my topic yet.”
He has to have a teacher who knows him well submit a letter of recommendation. If he’s named a finalist, he stands to get his share ($7,500) of the $33 million which the program gives out in scholarships. He’ll know by February if he’s a finalist. The top-ranking scholars will be chosen from that group and named National Merit Scholars in the spring.
Neil is the son of Richard and Paige Lockwood of Poulsbo. He’s attended North Kitsap public schools throughout his education. He’s hoping for a career in engineering, although he’s not sure what kind of specialty in engineering he’ll aim for.
He’ll start college in fall 2017 and has applied to the University of Washington, Washington State University and University of California at Berkeley.
“The Berkeley thing is just sort of a whim,” he said. “I heard they have a good engineering program and I’d prefer to stay on the West Coast.”
Although math and science are his favorite subjects, he also likes to sing. He sings baritone in three school choirs, jazz choir, symphonic choir, and the men’s choir.
“My older brother was in choir and it sounded like fun,” Neil said. That brother, Nolan, is currently taking a “gap year.”
Neil likes math and science because both are predictable.
“Once you know how to do something, you can do it repeatedly,” he said. “I like the structure.”
And, like most high school students, he likes to play video games, including “Overwatch.” Neil is also a reader — anything fiction and nonfiction.
“I’ve loved reading since I was a kid,” he said. “I like science fiction, but if my parents had given me a history book, I would have read it. I wouldn’t have been too happy about it, but I would have read it.”
As an exceptional student, Neil’s advice to younger students is to ask for help when you need it.
“I’d tell them to seek help if you don’t know something,” he said. “Because when you know you know something, it will benefit you in life.”
He’d also tell them to enjoy extra-circular activities.
He’s a member of the math club, the Honors Society, Future Business Leaders of America, and participates in archery.
Neil gets high praise from English teacher Peggy Dunbar.
“I was fortunate enough to have Neil for two years,” she said. “He is a diligent and highly intelligent young man. He has an exceptional standard for himself that he strives to meet daily. I couldn’t be more proud of him, to tell you the truth. He deserves all the recognition he gets and more.”