Opinion: Center For Global Studies students commended in National Merit Program

This is a statement included in the packet for the Board of Education meeting planned for Dec. 17 but cancelled due to weather concerns. 

The Norwalk Board of Education would like to recognize Center for Global Studies Seniors Owen McClung and Julia Wall on being named commended students for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. Students who achieve top scores may receive recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The program compares student PSAT scores with those of other students in the same state using a specific index. The top 3-4% of scorers are named Commended Scholars. Owen and Julia placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.5 million students who took the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

As members of the Center for Global Studies inter-district magnet school located at Brien McMahon, Julia and Owen have focused on studying a variety of cultures with a focus on incorporating global mindedness into their studies.

Owen is an excellent scholar, who consistently impresses his teachers with the high quality of his logic, wit, and clarity of written expression. Owen is also a part of the Brien McMahon International Baccalaureate program, a comprehensive and rigorous two-year pre-university course of study that is highly regarded by colleges and universities. He is on track to graduate with an IB diploma this spring. Additionally, Owen is a Center for Global Studies ambassador and ranks first in his class for GPA. In 2018, Owen participated in the Arabic Study Abroad Program at the Bridges Academy, a language school in Rabat, and Middle-East International School in Qatar. In addition to focusing on academics, Owen is an avid sailor who leads his peers on the scouting boat Ship Six.

Her teachers know Julia Wall for her beautiful writing and musicality, having been classically trained in piano. Not only is she skilled at the arts, but she has a passion for science and hopes to study medical research in college. Julia has recently been accepted into Penn State and awaits news of other schools. Last year, Julia traveled to Rwanda on a study tour to learn more about post-genocide cultural and political reconstruction. The tour included the opportunity to have conversations with government officials and experience a safari.

Additionally, Julia has served as a Center for Global Studies ambassador for the past two years and is acting as treasurer this year. She is also president of the Yearbook Club.

The Board is proud to acknowledge both Julia and Owen for their outstanding academic accomplishments. We are confident that you will have bright careers ahead of you, both academically and as an integral part of society.


ConcernedToo December 22, 2019 at 9:18 pm

Congratulations to those students. I’m happy to see the board recognizing outstanding student achievement.

But here’s my question: as a city we probably had close to 1000 students take the psat last year. If the top 3-4% of the students got commended, then we should have 30 or so commended scholars, right? Where are the rest? Do we have any semifinalists (top 1%,we should have 10)?

I hate being cynical on an article touting student achievement but I’m just confused as to why this particular one got recognized out of the entire district when I’m sure other students actual scored higher and got semifinalist or maybe even won the scholarship instead of just getting commended.

Again, it’s great that the students got the honor and I hate being a wet blanket, but sometimes the things we highlight seem so… weird. The answer might be as simple as the person in charge of CGS does a good job of publicizing student achievement and the other schools don’t. Either way, it’s weird.

Susan Wallerstein December 23, 2019 at 7:27 am

@ConcernedToo Gentle suggestion to reread the article which explains that these students are among the top 3-4% nationally, not locally. That’s why it’s such a significant honor. One could ask why Norwalk doesn’t have more students at this level but that’s another conversation for another day. In the meantime, bravo to these remarkable student!

ConcernedToo December 24, 2019 at 11:13 pm

I bet that Norwalk does have other students at this level, and students at the higher level (semifinalist) – if not every year, then probably most years. There’s nowhere in the article that states these are the only students in the city to achieve this level. I’d be shocked if, across 1000 students in the city taking the test, only 2 (.2%) are in the top 3% of test takers nationally.

That’s why I’m confused. We should be seeing info about this every year from all schools. We have students going to ivies and achieving great things, but we don’t hear much about them.

Susan Wallerstein December 30, 2019 at 8:17 am

@ConcernedToo Based on past experience not sure I agree that there are other National Merit commendation or semi-finalist winners. It’s highly competitive, national pool and even more so within CT. Best to ask a BOE member or district administrator to research & advise.

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