National Merit Scholarship Finalist: Labonte On the Path to Success


By Lindsey Scott
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(Timothy Won | Trojan Times) On top of his academics, Tyler LaBonte (12) is a well-rounded student who participates in SkillsUSA, a program that focuses on students individual skills in media, robotics, video, design, and various other categories.

The National Merit Scholarship program is a competitive program that takes 50,000 high school students based on their Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) scores. Senior Tyler LaBonte was part of those 50,000 students and has since surpassed to the final round, leaving one more nail-biting step to success.

“(LaBonte is) very hard working, extremely respectful (and) extremely intelligent. I guess if I could sum it up all in one, LaBonte is kind of like the old school student that every teacher wished every student was. He’s very task oriented, he’s all about respecting the person who’s running the class. He wants to be assigned work, to be given a direction to further his education. Overall (he’s) a really good student,” said networking teacher Blaise Hanagami.

LaBonte accredits his finalist position to his effective method of studying for standardized tests. “I have a unique, but effective method preparing for standardized tests that I believe is a large factor in my high scores. I begin studying anywhere from two to three weeks before the exam, and I take a practice test one week before the real thing. I study what I missed on the practice test, and I take another one two days before the exam. The day before, I don’t study at all, so I can head into the test with a clear, focused mind,” said LaBonte.

LaBonte received continuous support from his parents and teachers at MHS. “Throughout the PSAT process, I relied heavily on my parents and the (College and Career Center) team to help me figure out procedure and planning that way, I could focus on performing on the exam to my best ability. I also credit my test prep teacher (Steven) Schick for helping me access study materials and revealing useful standardized test tips and tricks,” said LaBonte. “(I supported him by) giving advice,” added Hanagami. “(I) filled out a lot of letters of (recommendation) for him, applications, but for the most part, LaBonte has done everything on his own to be exact.” Dawn LaBonte, Tyler LaBonte’s mother also explained, “We have encouraged Tyler to be involved in numerous activities both in and outside of school.”

However, Tyler LaBonte has also influenced the same people who supported him. “You know what, I think in a way (I’ve) been positively influenced by (Tyler) LaBonte because inside (and) outside the classroom, he does his very best to do what’s right.  I think, as a teacher, it’s inspiring because you go through having hundreds and hundreds of kids every year, it’s really nice to have that handful of kids, (Tyler) LaBonte included, that (you) would classify (as ideal students).  It’s encouraging and inspiring in the sense that you know they’re out there,” said Hanagami.

As a finalist, Tyler LaBonte wins an automatic scholarship regardless of the outcome. “Becoming a National Merit Finalist has opened many doors for me in terms of affording college. One of the reasons I chose to apply to (the University of Southern California) is because National Merit Finalists receive an automatic half-tuition scholarship valued at nearly $100,000,” said Tyler LaBonte. “Becoming a National Merit Finalist has helped me gain confidence in my academic ability and increased my options for both applying to and affording college.”

From this point on, there is one more round for National Merit Scholarship finalists like Tyler LaBonte to decided upon the winners of the National Merit Scholarship.