Sibley Students Recognized by National Merit
Sibley Students Recognized by National Merit Scholarship Program
Posted on 10/07/2016

The National Merit Scholarship program has recognized eleven Henry Sibley High School seniors this year, the most students in recent history. About 1.6 million students from 22,000 high schools take the Preliminary National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Students with the highest test scores are recognized as Commended Scholars or Semifinalists.

Henry Sibley seniors Alex Nilles and Daniel O’Reilly are National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists, putting them in the top one-percent of all U.S. high school seniors. Nearly 16,000 students with the highest test scores are named Semifinalists. In February, 15,000 of the Semifinalists will be notified that they have advanced to the Finalist standing.

In addition, nine seniors are National Merit Commended Scholars. They are Sam Altshuler, Nicholas Crary, Joseph Dill, Victoria Garner, Willa Gegelman, Maya Levine, Margaret Prokosch, Oren Rosenberg, and Jake Wendt. About 34,000 of the top scorers are named Commended Scholars. They received Letters of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship program for their outstanding academic performance.


Alex NillesName:
Alex Nilles
Hometown: West St. Paul
Parents: Lora & Brian Nilles
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Somerset Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Study Biomedical Engineering at college

Alex Nilles
is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. He is active ina variety of extracurricular activities and enrolled in numerous advanced classes. Alex has been involved in National Honor Society, Link Crew, Student Council, Business Professionals of America, Basketball, and Baseball. As a member of the Basketball Team, he received a Spotlight on Scholarship award all three years.

In addition to his extracurricular activities, Alex has enrolled in several AP classes including Biology, Chemistry, Calculus AB and BC, Language and Composition, Physics Mechanics, Mico/Macro Economics, Spanish IV-CE, and Spanish V-CE. His favorite class in high school was AP Biology. He said, “I was really intrigued by the content of the class and Mr. Friberg was a great teacher.” Alex has received an academic letter for all four years of his academic career at Henry Sibley and earned a scholarship to attend an engineering camp at the University of Minnesota.

Outside of school, he has helped lead a summer youth church camp for two years and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. He has also attended the Rotary Ethics Workshop and Camp EMID, a weeklong overnight camp focused on leadership and diversity.

During the summer, he works as an umpire for the Mendota Heights Athletic Association (MHAA), a busboy at the Pool and Yacht Club, and a “manny” managing the summer schedules of two middle school boys. Alex enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and travelling in his free time. He also enjoys filmmaking and acting. With a group of friends, he has acted in and helped create a few short films that were entered in film festivals.

According to Alex, “Seeing adults succeed in their careers makes me want to do well in school, so one day, I can get a good job and do the same.”

In the future, he is most looking forward to “college, meeting new people, becoming more independent, learning new things, and starting the next chapter of my life.”


Daniel O'ReillyName:
Daniel O’Reilly
Hometown: West St. Paul
Parents: Sheila & Patrick O’Reilly
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Somerset Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college for a four-year degree

Daniel O’Reilly is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. He is active in a variety of extracurricular activities. Daniel has been involved in Baseball, Math Team, and Upward Bound during all four years of high school. As a member of the Baseball Team, he received the Spotlight on Scholarship Award. Daniel also participates in Student Council, National Honor Society, Ping Pong Team, and Link Crew.

He has received academic letter awards for his freshman, sophomore, and junior years. In his academics, Daniel’s favorite class at Henry Sibley was Calculus.

In addition to his academics and extracurricular activities, Daniel volunteered at the Blood Drive, Habitat for Humanity, and Feed My Starving Children. He has spent the last several years working at the Minnesota State Fair.

Being a National Merit Scholar is important to him because, “it represents all the hard work I have done.”

According to Daniel, “My parents inspire me to be involved with a lot of things and be social while also staying very focused on academics.” He is most looking forward to college, new opportunities to meet people, and trying a lot of activities.


Sam AltshulerName:
Sam Altshuler
Hometown: Sunfish Lake
Parents: Carol & Gordon Altshuler













Nicholas CraryName:
Nicholas Crary
Hometown: Eagan
Parents: Kevin & Amy Crary
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Pilot Knob Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college for a degree in Physics

Nicholas Crary is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. He is currently enrolled full-time at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities for his second year in the Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. At Henry Sibley, Nicholas has been involved in the Math Team and National Honor Society. He also takes private lessons for both violin and piano outside of school.

In his academic career at Henry Sibley, Nicholas has taken several AP classes including Physics Mechanics and Biology. He has received academic letter awards for his freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Also, his favorite class in high school was AP Physics Mechanics.

According to Nicholas, “I enjoy learning new things and this drives me to do my best in academics.”

In the future, he is most looking forward to attending college and pursuing a degree in Physics.


Joseph DillName:
Joseph Dill
Hometown: Mendota Heights
Parents: LaRae & Dewayne Dill
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Mendota Elementary (preschool), Somerset Elementary, and Heritage E-STEM Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college to pursue a degree in Engineering or Physics

Joseph Dill
is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. He is currently the captain of the Cross Country Team and the Track & Field Team. Joseph has run Cross Country since seventh grade. He qualified individually for the state meet in his sophomore and junior years. In addition to athletics, Joseph is actively involved in National Honor Society and a weekly Bible study. He is also head of the Ballroom Dance Club and Vice President of Student Council.

In his academic career at Henry Sibley, Joseph has taken several AP and advanced classes including Calculus AB and BC, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Language and Composition, and Spanish Concurrent Enrollment (CE). He has also played cello in the Philharmonic Orchestra since his freshman year.

Joseph’s favorite class in high school was an Independent Study with Mr. Bohacek. He said, “During the class, we work in the physics lab taking slow-motion video of physics-related events to create science curriculum. It is a unique opportunity that students have here at Sibley to get involved in physics research, and get lab experience while in high school.” The class was a way for him to help students learn physics and be a positive influence in other people’s lives, according to Joseph. “I have always been inspired by my potential to help others.”

He is honored by the recognition as a National Merit Scholar. Joseph said, “I have been blessed with wonderful learning opportunities, and have been encouraged and inspired by many different teachers here at Sibley. This recognition is a result of their dedication to my success, and some hard work and late nights on my part.”

He is most looking forward to the potential of his future education and career path. In spite of Joseph’s planning, he has “no clue” what is going to happen with his future, but he’s looking forward to it.


Victoria GarnerName:
Victoria Garner
Hometown: Eagan
Parents: Jon & Ruth Garner
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Pilot Knob Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college to study French and other languages

Victoria Garner is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. She has taken the French College In the Schools (CIS) class for two years and it is her favorite class at Henry Sibley High School. Victoria has participated in Marching Band for all four years of high school and Winter Guard for three years. She is also part of the Gender Equality, Ballroom Dance, and Drama clubs.

Throughout her high school career, Victoria has taken several AP classes including Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, Calculus AB and BC, Physics Mechanics, Language and Composition, and Psychology.

Outside of school, Victoria has worked at her temple, teaching Hebrew to elementary school students. She is currently teaching students at her temple about Jewish ethics and values, assisting teens in the classroom, and helping students develop their own beliefs.

Being a National Merit Scholar is important to Victoria because she believes “it’s nice to be recognized on a national level” for her hard work and dedication.

According to Victoria, “I love learning because I am truly curious about everything. I want to understand the world around me and make it a better place. You can’t do that without expanding your knowledge through learning and exploring.”

In the future, she is looking forward to going new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new places and cultures.


Willa GegelmanName:
Willa Gegelman
Hometown: Mendota Heights
Parent: Wendy Skjerven
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Mendota Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college

Willa Gegelman is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. She is active in a National Honor Society and Gender Equality Club, joining both during her junior year at Henry Sibley. Willa has also taken Concurrent Enrollment (CE) classes offered through Minnesota State University, Mankato. She enrolled in Spanish IV-CE last year and is currently enrolled in Spanish V-CE.

Throughout her academic career at Henry Sibley, Willa has taken several AP classes including Biology, Chemistry, Calculus AB and BC, U.S. History, Physics Mechanics, Psychology, and Language and Composition. Her favorite class in high school was World Literature because it gave her the opportunity to explore literature from different cultures around the world.

Outside of school, Willa takes dance lessons and performs with Ballet Minnesota. She also volunteers at her church to supervise Sunday School every weekend.

Being recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program is important to her, “because it shows that we have a good school district that prepares students to be successful after high school.” It is also important to Willa because she believes that it shows she worked throughout her academic career.

According to Willa, “My mom inspires me to try my best at school and dance.”

In the future, she is most looking forward to college, discovering what she is interested in, travelling, and learning new things.


Maya LevineName:
Maya Levine
Hometown: Mendota Heights
Parents: Stephanie & Jimmy Levine
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Mendota Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Possibly a gap year, then college

Maya Levine is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. She is currently the President of National Honor Society. Maya has been involved in numerous extracurricular activities all four years of high school including Newspaper, Student Council, Tennis, and Math Team. Throughout her high school career, she has also participated in National Honor Society and Gender Equality Club.

Throughout her academic career, Maya has taken several AP classes including Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, Calculus AB and BC, Physics Mechanics, Language and Composition, and Psychology. Her favorite class at Henry Sibley was AP Calculus AB.

Outside of school, she works a Lilydale Garden Center. Maya also volunteers with the Special Olympics and helps as a lake monitor for the City of Mendota Heights.

In the future, she is most looking forward to being independent in college.


Margaret ProkoschName:
Margaret Prokosch
Hometown: Mendota Heights
Parents: Brian & Trish Prokosch
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Mendota Elementary and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Study Biology at either St. Olaf or the University of Notre Dame and continue on to medical school

Margaret Prokosch
is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. She is captain of three athletic teams at Henry Sibley: Tennis, Nordic Ski, and Golf. A member of each team since seventh grade, Margaret has been recognized as All Conference in all three activities as well as MVP in Tennis. She is also active in National Honor Society, Student Council, Gender Equality Club, and Chamber Orchestra. In the Philharmonic Orchestra, she has served as section leader of the second violins for the last three years.

In her academic career, Margaret has taken Concurrent Enrollment (CE) classes offered through Minnesota State University, Mankato. She completed Spanish IV-CE as an eighth grader, Spanish V-CE as a freshman, and French IV College In the Schools (CIS) as a junior. This year, she is enrolled in French V CIS.
  Margaret has also taken several AP classes including Biology, U.S. History, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, Physics Mechanics, Language and Composition, and Psychology.

Her favorite class at Henry Sibley was Mr. Skov’s Advanced World Literature class. Margaret said, “We covered a huge amount of fascinating literature.
  At the same time, I learned how to study efficiently and write more effectively; two very important skills for a student.” She also enjoyed Mr. Bohacek’s Independent Study for Physics because it taught her how to creatively solve scientific problems.

In her free time, Margaret plays piano and has been recognized as a finalist in the 2016 Minnesota Music Teachers’ Association (MMTA) Piano Contest. She is also involved at church where she serves as a Peer Minister and helps organize youth group events.

According to Margaret, “I love to learn, so I look forward to continuing my education at college. I believe that there is always room to grow by working hard and challenging myself.”

She is every excited for what her future holds. Margaret said, “I think that the challenging classes at Sibley have prepared me well for success in college and beyond. I am excited to meet many interesting new people at whichever college I attend.”


Oren RosenbergName:
Oren Rosenberg
Hometown: Eagan
Parents: Michael & Sagit Rosenberg
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering

Oren Rosenberg
is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. He is currently enrolled in numerous advanced classes through Henry Sibley and the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. While at Henry Sibley, Oren has taken several AP and advanced classes including Biology, Calculus AB and BC, Spanish IV-CE, and U.S. History. He has received the Academic Award for three years, the Student of the Month award last year, and been named on the Academic A Honor Roll every quarter. Oren also studied Hebrew in a College In the Schools (CIS) class through the University of Minnesota from his freshman through junior years.

In his junior year, Oren started taking about half of his courses at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities through the PSEO program. Through this program, he has taken classes including Shakespeare, Chemistry, Psychology, Physics, and Spanish. Oren plans to enroll in Economics, Multivariable Calculus, and a writing course in the spring semester.

His favorite classes at Henry Sibley were AP Calculus AB and BC with Mr. Kluznik. “In Mr. Kluznik’s classes, I was not only academically challenged by the coursework, but I also learned more about myself as a person,” Oren said.

In addition to his academic career, he has been active in National Honor Society (NHS) and in the PSEO Student Association at the University of Minnesota, a group similar to a student council in high school.

Outside of school, Oren works as a Customer Service Specialist for Best Buy and at a camp hosted by the Student Chess Association. He has also served as a research intern for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

According to Oren, “In my personal life, I constantly aim to push myself to accomplish new goals. I give every task in my life my best effort because, due to my love of learning, the journey itself is as rewarding (if not more) than the destination.”

He is most looking forward to continuing his education and further specializing in his field of interest. He said, “I am very excited to see where my future education and experiences will lead me.”


Jake WendtName:
Jake Wendt
Hometown: West St. Paul
Parents: Jon Wendt & Jennifer Wolfe
Other District 197 Schools Attended: Garlough Environmental Magnet School and Friendly Hills Middle School
Post-Graduation Plans: Attend college to study Mechanical Engineering, but keeping his options open

Jake Wendt is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar. He is currently the captain of the Henry Sibley Soccer Team. Jake has played on the team all four years of his high school career. He has also participated in a variety of extracurricular activities including Ultimate Frisbee, Track and Field, Table Tennis, Math Team, and National Honor Society. Through National Honor Society, he had the opportunity to volunteer at Blood Drives and Feed My Starving Children.

During Jake’s academic career, he has taken several AP classes including Biology, U.S. History, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, Psychology, Physics Mechanics, and Language and Composition. His favorite class at Henry Sibley was Advanced World Literature with Ms. Skov. The class was challenging and he didn’t enjoy it at the time. However, after stepping back and thinking about what he learned, Jake realized it was an enjoyable class because it taught him how to think differently and push through challenging materials.

In addition to his academics and extracurricular activities, Jake has also volunteered with Special Olympics MN and the Dodge Nature Center.

Being a National Merit Scholar is important to him because “it shows that all the hard work I put in paid off.”

According to Jake, “What inspires me to do more is just knowing that I have tried my best. No matter what happens, if I know that I tried my best on something, then that feeling is better than any other and this motivates me to do what ever I can in life to help.”

Jake is most looking forward to new experiences after high school. He said, “Whether it be in college, or after college, I cannot wait to have new adventures, no matter what they may be.”