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Meet Loyola's Five Seniors Named National Merit Semifinalists

In September, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation named five Loyola Academy seniors semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Congratulations to Emmett F. Boyd, Leah M. Harker, Daniel B. McGuire, Elizabeth B. "Zeb" O'Hara, and Townes X. Robertson! The National Merit Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.
The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. High school juniors entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record through high school, be endorsed or recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student's earlier performance on the qualifying test. 

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $28 million that will be awarded next spring.

The Loyola community congratulates the following seniors from the Class of 2024:

Emmett F. Boyd
Leah M. Harker
Daniel B. McGuire
Elizabeth B. "Zeb" O'Hara
Townes X. Robertson

Emmett F. Boyd

Wilmette Jr High
Cocurricular Activities: Varsity cross country (4 years) - captain, varsity track and field (4 years), National Honors Society - leadership board, Dumbach Scholar, French Honors Society, Torch Club, Ambassadors, Finance Club

Favorite Class at LA: My favorite class at Loyola was AP Biology with Mrs. Blakeslee. Within the classroom, I felt the double-period went by absurdly fast due to the fantastic community we built as a class with the help of Mrs. Blakeslee. Outside of the classroom, insights about the pharmaceutical industry and daily life-sciences changed the daily worldviews I held. Labs and lecturers amplified my interest in the fields of biology and scientific research which heavily influenced my consideration of biology as a major in college and potential career path. Service Experience: My favorite experience within service at Loyola was most definitely my summer service trip. For a week, me and eight other students along with three chaperones stayed in a mission residence on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. Each day, we would help with a children's day camp as well as setting up events within the community. The determination and grace of these folk in their mission to uplift their community was an inspiration to me that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Any special hobbies, interests, or talents?
My main hobbies are watching TV, reading, running, and hanging out with friends.

Have you thought about what you might study in college? Or where you'll be in 5, 10 years?
In college, I aspire to major in either business or biology, optimally both. From there, ideally I would receive some higher level of education, either a PHD or MBA, before entering into the fields of either finance or scientific research, depending on which I find myself more interested in during my collegiate years.

How has Loyola and your experience here helped you develop your talents?
Loyola always has a constant sense of motion and community to it: before, after, and during school. I first noticed this in a slightly muted sense my sophomore year, when it felt as if the Loyola student and faculty population were reemerging after a pandemic hibernation. Since then, the extracurricular options and academic coursework offered here at Loyola have allowed me to develop a sense of busyness and motivation in my daily life that drives me to higher aspirations in the most important aspects of my future, my career, and my life.

Leah M. Harker

St. Catherine Laboure
Cocurricular Activities: Track and field, choir, choir board—designer, Dumbach Scholars, Classics Club, Certamen, Arrupe 

Favorite Class at LA: My favorite classes at Loyola have been my Latin classes with Mrs. Pagnotta, Mrs. Wick, and Dr. Lowe. At first I was unsure about my decision to learn a dead language, but I know now I will never regret it. I've loved learning about ancient cultures and being a part of the Latin community at Loyola. The incredible passion that these teachers have for what they teach has helped inspire me to pursue a minor in classical studies in college. 

Service Experience: I have participated in Arrupe Service since sophomore year, when I tutored kids at Glenview Youth Services. Junior year I volunteered at Catholic Charities and as a teacher's assistant for religious education at OLPH. My work at Catholic Charities was especially meaningful to me. It taught me not to make assumptions about people and served as a reminder of the great privilege I have to be able to help these people rather than being the one needing help. The staff also inspired me through their selflessness and dedication. I am grateful to be continuing my work at Catholic Charities this year.

Any special hobbies, interests, or talents? 
In addition to my school activities, I enjoy reading, listening to music, and making jewelry. I also collect vintage license plates.

Have you thought about what you might study in college? Or where you'll be in 5, 10 years?
I am interested in computer science and biomedical engineering and planning to major in one or both of them. I am also hoping to minor in classical civilizations. I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing in 5 or 10 years, but I hope it is something I am passionate about. 

How has Loyola and your experience here helped you develop your talents?
Loyola has helped me develop my talents through allowing me to try new things. Both choir and track & field were new to me when I entered high school yet they have now become important parts of my identity and how I spend my time. The supportive environment and Jesuit values at Loyola have enabled me to find meaning in the things I do in and out of the classroom and put my whole self into them.

Daniel B. McGuire

St. Philomena Peoria
Cocurricular Activities: Four year varsity swimming and water polo, club swimming and water polo, Clavius, Kino, NHS

Favorite Class at LA: AP Physics C with Mr. Lowe. I am currently taking it, and it is the most interesting and engaging class I have taken. It is notoriously challenging, but in a good way—it pushes me to be a more disciplined and inquisitive student as well as a better class leader. Mr. Lowe creates a very positive, collaborative classroom environment aimed at helping each student which I enjoy participating in every day. The comradery Mr. Lowe fosters between us as students and with him as a teacher goes beyond physics. It helps us build relationships. While I am only one month in, this class has already been academically and personally formative, and I am very grateful to be in it.

Service Experience: I went on the Kino summer service trip in July. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. One particularly good memory was talking to U.S. border patrol and migrants on the same day. I got a real, back-to-back perspective on both sides of the border issue and it was fascinating. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to go to the border myself and investigate immigration firsthand, as it is the social justice issue that I am most passionate about. I plan on continuing service and advocacy for Kino and immigration this coming school year. I have also done Arrupe service at Centro Romero and Glenview Youth Services tutoring in English and Spanish. I really enjoy teaching others, and seeing their faces as they understand something they had not before keeps me going back.

Any special hobbies, interests, or talents?
My favorite hobby is traveling. I love seeing the world. This past summer, I went to South Africa to study abroad with Notre Dame; Mexico for summer service; and England/France with my family. Traveling is my favorite thing to do—nothing beats experiencing a new place and culture. I especially enjoy conversations and activities with local people. Authentic experiences in other countries beat fabricated ones. I also play water polo and swim both for Loyola and for a club team. I also enjoy golfing.

Have you thought about what you might study in college? Or where you'll be in 5, 10 years?
I plan to major in political science or government and then go to law school. 

How has Loyola and your experience here helped you develop your talents?
Loyola has shaped me into a truly well-rounded person. I have become a better student—more intelligent, more engaged in class, and a better writer, reader, and learner overall. Sports have made me very physically fit and disciplined. Service has made me more compassionate, empathetic, and truly focused on justice, especially relating to migration as I work with the Kino project. Finally, the social environment at Loyola has made me more confident, outgoing, and charismatic.

Elizabeth B. "Zeb" O'Hara

Home schooled
Cocurricular Activities: Women in STEAM Club—president; Classics Club—co-consul; varsity swimming—co-captain; Croissants et Conversation Club; Dumbach Scholar; French Honor Society; Latin & Greek Honor Society; Peer Tutoring

Favorite Class at LA: My favorite course this year is AP Physics C with Mr. Lowe. I love science in general because I like figuring out how the world works. AP Physics C challenges me to draw on the other math and science classes I've taken at Loyola and put the pieces together in new ways. I particularly enjoy deriving physics equations from scratch rather than looking them up because it’s like doing a puzzle that has real-world consequences.

Service Experience: Most of the service work I've done at Loyola involves tutoring, both as peer tutor in the Academic Drop-in Center and at Madonna Mission, which is an Arrupe service site near my house in Rogers Park. At Madonna Mission I was assigned to help a seventh grade student to prepare for the Catholic high school entrance exam. I enjoyed getting to know her and helping her to work towards a goal that had the potential to really change her life. When the studying got too intense we'd take a break to play Mancala or a round of Uno.

Any special hobbies, interests, or talents?
Over the summer I had the opportunity to do astrophysics research at Northwestern through the CIERA Reach program for high school students. I had never done astrophysics before, but I discovered that I really enjoy it. For my final project, I calculated the age of a star cluster known as the Wishing Well (NGC 3532). Using information about the brightness of the star and the different colors of light it gives off, I was able to determine its age and metallicity (a measurement of composition). 

A hobby that I've enjoyed for a long time is swimming. I've been swimming with the same club team, at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston, since first grade. My parents signed me up for swimming because I was a really uncoordinated little kid. Since then I have grown to love the sport and the friends I've made in the pool. My specialty is long distance events, especially the mile, so I put in a lot of yards in the pool.

Finally, I am an extremely lazy bird-watcher. We have lots of native plants in our backyard, and I love to sit on our porch observing the birds who stop by for a break along their migration routes. This fall I've seen magnolia warblers, white-breasted nuthatches, and a Swainson's thrush. Last spring, I spotted a pair of scarlet tanagers—a first for our backyard!

Have you thought about what you might study in college? Where you'll be or what you'll do in 5, 10 years?
I definitely want to study science in college, with an end goal of research rather than the pre-med track. I hadn't considered astrophysics until this summer, but now it's a real possibility. I also really enjoyed AP Chemistry with Ms. Michaels and AP Biology with Ms. Waid-Prince, and I don't feel as though I'm done with those fields either. For a college minor, I'm thinking about either French or Classics or both. I've had great classes with Mme. Kendrigan and Doc Lowe. At one of my college visits I got to attend an advanced French class where we discussed different plans for the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and debated what "authenticity" means in that context. As you can see, I have too many interests, and I am hoping that college will help me to figure out which one(s) I want to pursue professionally!

How has Loyola and your experience here helped you develop your talents?
As I hope my responses above show, I can't even begin to think about my interests and talents without thinking about the Loyola teachers who have helped me to develop them. I love having the freedom to explore different aspects of myself, including taking my first ever theater class this year!

Townes X. Robertson

St. Athanasius School
Cocurricular Activities: Varsity soccer (captain), travel soccer (captain), Unidos

Favorite Class at LA: My favorite class at Loyola was AP Bio with Mrs. Waid-Prince, which I took last year. I liked learning about the world and how everything around me worked.

Service Experience: My sophomore year, I went to an elderly home every Sunday morning. I enjoyed talking to and doing activities with all the people there. It was very touching to see how excited everybody there was to have someone to talk to and play games with. It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life about solidarity and spending time with others.

Any special hobbies, interests, or talents?
I love to play soccer through Loyola and outside of school. I also really enjoy spending time with my younger siblings and doing things with them. 

Have you thought about what you might study in college? Where you'll be or what you'll do in 5, 10 years?
To be honest, I have no idea where I'll be in ten years. I hope I have a job I enjoy that is meaningful and adds to the world. I want to major in biology or something related to that.

How has Loyola and your experience here helped you develop your talents?
Loyola has taught me a lot about myself and how to be a better person. I've changed so much since my freshman year and am thankful for that growth. Loyola has helped me pursue athletic success through soccer and academic success in the classroom. I’m very grateful for the school and everyone I’ve met here.
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