Meet our 2021 National Merit Students

Holy Family Catholic High School is proud to announce the 2021 National Merit Scholarship program recognizes three of our seniors. Seniors Lauren Taylor and Gregory Stoffel are 2021 National Merit Semifinalists, and senior Joseph Freitas is a National Merit Commended Student. Out of 1.5 million entrants, roughly 34,000 earn Commended Students recognition, and about 16,000 earn Semifinalists recognition. The majority of semifinalists will advance to National Merit Finalists in February, an honor granted to just 1%  of the 1.5 million students who enter the competition by taking the PSAT test in their junior year.

To learn more about the National Merit Scholarship program, click here.

We wanted to know more about how they prepared for the PSAT/NMSQT and what factors, both in school and outside of it, contributed to them achieving this level of academic success.

Lauren Taylor

2021 National Merit Semifinalist Lauren Taylor

HFCHS Activities: Mock Trial, Tennis, Math League, Student Council, Honor Society, Fire Ambassadors

How did you prepare for the PSAT?

I went through the practice test that Holy Family gave us in small parts to familiarize myself with the test. Other than that, I got a good sleep and ate a healthy breakfast on the morning of the test.

What types of Holy Family courses assisted in the preparation process?

I feel that all of the classes I have taken helped prepare me for the test by creating good study habits and test-taking skills. I am so grateful to every teacher that I have had, and I hope that I have made them proud. Specifically, my English and Math courses strengthened my knowledge in these areas for the test.

Rigorous academic course loads can be very stressful; how do you deal with that stress, and what advice do you have for students  going through similar situations?

With my “Type A” personality, I find it helpful to keep a planner with everything that I have to get done. I also watch Netflix while I do my homework, which seems like it would be distracting, but it helps me focus better and stay relaxed. My advice for other students is to be proactive and try to get all of your work done as soon as it is assigned. Also, do not be afraid to ask your teachers when you need help; I spent part of my birthday last year in the cafeteria getting help from Mr. Walker on AP Chem.

What makes you most proud about being a National Merit finalist?

After pushing myself for the past few years, it feels great to have my hard work recognized. I am proud to be grouped with other students that share my same passion for learning.

What will you miss the most after you graduate from Holy Family?

After I graduate from HF, I will miss the people and the community the most. I know that everyone inside the building has my back, and it truly feels like a family. I can only hope that I find something even remotely similar to that in college and for the rest of my life.


Gregory Stoffel

How did you prepare for the PSAT?

I took a practice test to help understand the general format. The main part that prepared me was studying for the ACT because these two tests are very similar.

Rigorous academic course loads can be very stressful; how do you deal with that stress, and what advice do you have for students going through similar situations?

I deal with stress by looking at the bigger picture, and I learn what is really important. Stress often comes when I have a lot going on at the start of a new season, so I try to take it one step at a time. Making to-do lists help relieve stress, and talking with friends helps as well.

What makes you most proud about being a National Merit finalist?

The part that makes me the most proud is that only 1% qualify after taking this test. I am one of very few, and it is an honor to be a part of it.

What will you miss the most after you graduate from Holy Family?

After high school, the part I will miss the most is the friendships that I have made here. I know that I will always remember the lessons I learned here; I will miss Mr. Dwyer’s lectures in A.P. Biology, Mr. Kannel’s cookies, and so much more.


Joseph Freitas

2021 National Merit Commended Student Joseph Freitas

HFCHS Activities: Band, Math League, Track and Field

What types of Holy Family courses assisted in the preparation process?

Throughout my school career, English classes have taught me standard conventions of grammar to use on the PSAT, reading comprehension skills, and math classes, especially pre-calculus, which helped develop quantitative reasoning skills necessary for the math portions.

Rigorous academic course loads can be very stressful; how do you deal with that stress, and what advice do you have for students going through similar situations?

The main way I deal with the stress of a heavy course load is simply doing all homework as soon as possible so that the workload does not build up over time. Also, I make sure to study for every test and try my best on every assignment. My advice would be not to procrastinate and to do something rejuvenating after a long day of work, such as a bike ride or

What makes you most proud about being a National Merit finalist?

The most satisfying thing about being a National Merit commended student is that achieving this distinction in Minnesota requires you to be in the top one percent of test-takers in the nation and, therefore, at the very top of the academic world. I am most proud of this exclusivity and the fact that only one out of a hundred people can achieve this distinction.

What will you miss the most after you graduate from Holy Family?

I will miss this school’s small, communal feel due to it only having about 500 students.


Interested in learning more about Holy Family?

Please join us for a Fire Family Visit. Fire Family Visits are socially-distanced, small group, on-campus information sessions with personalized tours led by our student ambassadors. Click on the link below to find the time and date that works best for your family and then reserve your seats! See you soon.

Register for a Fire Family Visit

60-Plus Holy Family Extracurricular Activities

We’ve all been there. We invest in all kinds of activities for our kids to pursue. It’s part of the growing process: developing the whole person, not just academically, but physically, socially and emotionally.

Then, as high school nears, that little voice sounds the alarm in the back of a parent’s head. Is my daughter or son good enough to make the team? Can they continue with music? Get a part in the play? Compete with other students? Is high school the end of the line?

“It’s interesting comparing Holy Family to other large schools in the area,” says Activities Director Nick Tibesar. “We have kids staying with programs longer than what I saw in public schools. So often, in other schools, kids come in playing ball with friends during their summers and evenings, sometimes for years, and all of a sudden they end up as a high school freshman and sophomore not on a team anymore.”

Not at Holy Family Catholic High School. Here, students get an opportunity to participate in the sports and many other activities they are most passionate about. Plus, they often discover a wide variety of other sports, academic teams, clubs and activities they never considered.

“We encourage kids to try new things and stretch limits,” Nick says. “We want them to be involved in multiple things to fight some of the outside pressure to specialize in just one of them.”

Smaller School Size, Big Opportunities

With a student body of 460 kids, Holy Family provides unlimited opportunities to explore new things. Students often participate in more than one activity, not just during the school year, but also during a single season.

“When looking at sports, there are students who were on the trap and lacrosse teams, or tennis, track and baseball,” Nick says. “But more common is a kid who participates in both a sport and one of our academic competitions.

“We had a player on our basketball team who also was on our varsity Math League team. As a coach, I recall a half dozen times he had to go to Math League. No one acted like that was strange or gave him a hard time. We said, ‘How did Math League go? And cool you’re doing so well.’

“It’s fun to be in a culture where someone is not ostracized for picking academics over athletics.”

Endless Opportunities

With over 60 extracurriculars to choose from, your Holy Family student is destined to pursue his or her talents, while trying new activities outside of the classroom.

“There are a lot of people who chose Holy Family for the right reasons—faith-based environment, college prep, joining a community where their student is known and cared for,” Nick adds. “All of those things extend to our classroom, lunchroom and after-school activities.

“We consider extracurricular activities the last class of the day. And, they provide the same values as everything else at Holy Family.”

QUICK FACTS:

95% of Holy Family students participate in extracurricular activities

92% of Holy Family students participate in multiple extracurricular activities in a school year

60+ Holy Family extracurricular activities are offered each school year

(more…)