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School Notes: Hanover Student Wins National Merit Scholarship

  • Katherine Chen and Principal Justin Campbell. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Katherine Chen and Principal Justin Campbell. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dresden School District Superintendent Frank Bass, left, sets up a photograph with Hanover High School Principal Justin Campbell, second from right, and John M. Stalnaker Memorial National Merit Scholarship recipient Katherine Chen, second from left, as Meghan Pierce of the Union Leader photographs last week. Bass then held a news conference to celebrate Chen’s achievement. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Dresden School District Superintendent Frank Bass, left, sets up a photograph with Hanover High School Principal Justin Campbell, second from right, and John M. Stalnaker Memorial National Merit Scholarship recipient Katherine Chen, second from left, as Meghan Pierce of the Union Leader photographs last week. Bass then held a news conference to celebrate Chen’s achievement. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Katherine Chen (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Katherine Chen (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Elizabeth Chen looks on as her daughter Katherine answers questions during a news conference at Hanover High School last week. She was announced as a winner of a National Merit Scholarship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Elizabeth Chen looks on as her daughter Katherine answers questions during a news conference at Hanover High School last week. She was announced as a winner of a National Merit Scholarship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Katherine Chen and Principal Justin Campbell. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Dresden School District Superintendent Frank Bass, left, sets up a photograph with Hanover High School Principal Justin Campbell, second from right, and John M. Stalnaker Memorial National Merit Scholarship recipient Katherine Chen, second from left, as Meghan Pierce of the Union Leader photographs last week. Bass then held a news conference to celebrate Chen’s achievement. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Katherine Chen (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Elizabeth Chen looks on as her daughter Katherine answers questions during a news conference at Hanover High School last week. She was announced as a winner of a National Merit Scholarship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

There was no debating that Hanover High School senior Katherine Chen is one of the top students not only in her school, but the state. She’s a Harvard-bound semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholars competition, a state debate champion, and a member of the Hanover High team that ranked tops in an annual math modeling contest.

Now, with Chen being named the recipient of the John M. Stalnaker Memorial Scholarship awarded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, it’s clear that Chen is one of the brightest students in the country.

“It is such an incredible honor. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Chen said in a news conference at Hanover High last Wednesday, after her award was announced. The press conference was put on by Hanover school administrators to draw attention to Chen’s award.

“For me,” Chen added, “I think it’s a reflection of the work that not only I’ve put in, but ... also the strength of the school community. Their support has been so meaningful throughout all of this.”

The Stalnaker scholarship, worth $20,000 over four years, is awarded to one of the finalists in the National Merit Scholar competition who plans to pursue a career in science or mathematics, and comes from a rural area. The daughter of Jack and Elizabeth Chen of Hanover, Katherine Chen is one of 15,000 finalists in this year’s competition, and one of 8,000 who will receive a scholarship.

After her family moved to Hanover from Greenwich, Conn., when she was in middle school, Chen said she developed a love for science and math in classes taught by Richmond Middle School math teacher John Kitzmiller and Hanover High’s Greta Mills and Bill Hammond. After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which Katherine Chen called “a big challenge for our whole family,” she was inspired to do summer research with Dr. Murray Korc, a former pancreatic cancer researcher at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, who’s now at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

When Chen graduates from Hanover in June, she’ll leave behind a legacy that includes starting Hanover’s debate team. Outside of school, debate “takes up the bulk of my time,” Chen said, and her efforts have yielded results. Competing with her brother Justin, a freshman, Chen took first place in the Vermont Public Forum Debate State Tournament last month.

Chen’s success both in and out of the classroom is no secret among her classmates, but she said she’s never felt pigeonholed for being accomplished.

“It really is a school where there is a culture of success, and I mean that in the best way possible,” Chen said. It’s not a cutthroat atmosphere, she added, but one in which students are encouraged to explore their interests, be they academic, athletic or otherwise. “I’ve had a phenomenal high school experience,” Chen said, “and really supportive friends.”

Around the district, Chen has developed a reputation as a high-achieving student who gets things done. For years, there had been talk of establishing a debate team at Hanover High, said Erika Finlayson, the vice chairwoman of the Dresden School Board, who was on hand Wednesday for the announcement. But, “Katherine came and made it happen.

“What I like seeing,” Finlayson added, “is how many of her peers and teachers appreciate her and respect her, and like having her around.”

When she’s not instilling fear in debate opponents or winning national scholarship competitions, Chen can usually be found spending time with her brother James, who’s in second grade . The duo enjoy taking field trips to the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, and James regularly challenges his older sister in Harry Potter trivia.

“People view me as someone who’s academically focused,” Chen admitted. But, she added, “I think they’d be interested to see me at the mercy of my brother.”

Events

Students in the Mascoma Valley Regional School District will display academic and artistic work they’ve completed this year in the ninth annual Mascoma Student Showcase, to be held May 18.

Opportunities

New Hampshire students who are studying for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and social work and medical degrees (M.D. and D.O.) are eligible to apply for the Alice M. Yarnold and Samuel Yarnold Scholarship, which awards scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to $5,000. Applications are due May 17. Contact the Alice M. Yarnold and Samuel Yarnold Scholarship Trust, P.O. Box 2303, Dover, N.H. 03821-2303 to request an application.

Achievements

Shannon Hammond Karlowicz, a Hartford High School grad, was named District Teacher of the Year in the East Granby (Conn.) School District by the Connecticut State Board of Education. Karlowicz, a third grade teacher at Carl Allgrove Elementary in East Granby, was presented her award by Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Katie Beth Ryan can be reached at kbryan@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Related

Letter: Debate Isn’t New at Hanover High

Monday, May 13, 2013

To the Editor: In your April 30 story about Hanover High student Katherine Chen receiving a National Merit Scholarship (“Merit Rewarded”), I was staggered by the statement of Dresden School Board Vice Chairman Erika Finlayson, that “for years, there had been talk of establishing a debate team at Hanover High.” While Chen’s accomplishments are certainly to be lauded and she …