Kennett High School is proud to announce that seniors James Hanby, Gina Lusvardi, and Sofia Lusvardi have been recognized as National Merit Scholars in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

“We are so proud of these outstanding students—not only for their exceptional performance on standardized tests, but also for all the other ways they enrich the Kennett community,” said Kennett High School principal Dr. Jeremy Hritz.

These students are among approximately 1.6 million juniors who entered the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) that served as the initial screening of program entrants.

James, Gina, and Sofie were deemed semi finalists last fall. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state; the number of semifinalists in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. After the submission and evaluation of extensive additional materials, only 15,000 students nationwide are deemed finalists; students were notified of the honor on May 17.

KHS counselor Cassie Allen explained the process of achieving the National Merit Scholar designation: “All three students were named National Merit Finalists. From those 15,000 nationwide, only about 2,500 are offered the National Merit Scholarship that Gina and Sofia received. This scholarship can be used anywhere the student plans to attend. There is also the College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship that is offered to around 4,000 of the 15,000 finalists. James received this institution-specific offer.”

James moved to Kennett just before beginning 4th grade, and Gina and Sofie have attended KCSD schools from the first day of 1st grade to the last day of senior year. Though they are all long-time KCSD students, their past and future paths are quite different.

Gina LusvardiGina participated in a wide range of activities at the high school. She was on the tennis, track, cross country, and basketball teams for all four years, often serving as team captain and frequently receiving All-Area honors for her performance. She was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, National Honor Society, the KHS Athletic Council, and the Medicine Club.

This fall Gina will be attending the University of Alabama with plans to major in chemical engineering on the pre-med track. She envisions herself possibly practicing medicine someday but intends to “keep her options open.” She definitely intends to spend some time on a basketball court while at Alabama.

Gina believes that the teachers and coaches she encountered in her twelve years in the Kennett Consolidated School District deserve her thanks.

“I have grown so much as a person, student, and athlete at Kennett and wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I had gone anywhere else,” she said.

And, as she is one to “keep her options open,” Gina has auditioned to be on the next season of Survivor if Covid-19 impacts her ability to be on campus in the fall!

Sofia LusvardiSofie also enjoyed involvement in many extracurriculars during her time at KHS. She excelled as a member (and captain) of the cross country, tennis, and track and field teams; she currently holds six school records in individual and relay events. She was part of the Athletic Council, Medicine Club, National Honors Society, Society of Women Engineers, Tie Dye Club, and the Kenn Relays Planning Committee.

Headed to the University of Pittsburgh, Sofie definitely sees herself running with a club on campus. She plans to pursue studies in bioengineering, also on the pre-med track. Though, like her sister, Sofie could see herself as a physician, she thinks “engineering is a great place to start.”

“Our parents are both engineers,” said Sofie, “so it always just sort of made sense.”

Sofie believes her greatest accomplishments thus far include being named a National Merit Scholar and receiving the KEA Science Award. And the greatest piece of advice she has received is from track coach John Ramagano who told her, “Your best power is to imagine.”

“This advice has always helped me with my track and academic goals. Even though I was unable to compete in track my senior year due to the coronavirus pandemic, I know I will apply this advice when I attend college and beyond,” Sofie said.

Mathematics department teacher Mr. Ron Phillips taught both Gina and Sofie in AP Calculus AB and AP Computer Science.

“Anyone who knows Gina and Sofie would not be surprised that both of them have earned such a distinguished honor. While they are each individually highly gifted, their superior academic ability is consistently overshadowed only by their character, integrity, and compassion for others. Each of them is a strong young woman in her own right, but together they are an unstoppable force, against which there is no reckoning. I speak for many when I say that I couldn’t be more proud of them both. They are most deserving,” observed Phillips.

Finally, James Hanby was active in Farrago (Kennett’s literary magazine), Reading Olympics, National Honor Society, Model UN, Academic Team, Anime Club, GSA, and the Diversity Council, holding a leadership position in nearly every organization. He recognizes his MVP award from the Chester County Intermediate Unit for his performance on the Academic Team as one of his greatest personal accomplishments.James Hanby

“I studied and practiced really hard in order to be the best player I could be, and I think that it really paid off in the matches we played this year. It might not be much to someone else, but I worked really hard for it behind the scenes, so to me it means a whole lot,” added James.

James will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology, where he plans to study physics.

“I’ve always had a passion for understanding how the physical world works, so for me a degree in physics was a logical next step. Looking forward, I’m hoping my degree will allow me to either do research or go into an applied physics field such as materials science,” explained James.

At RIT, James sees himself pursuing involvement in both LGBT groups and a quiz-bowl type club.

Mr. Dan Folmar, who taught James in both AP Physics and Introduction to Cosmology, attests to James’s superlative abilities.

“James is a highly talented student with particular gifts in etymology and the physical sciences. He has been a reliable and willing participant in both of the classes in which I’ve taught him. Over the past year, I have come to appreciate James’s depth of thinking, his willingness to ask questions, and his breadth of knowledge. I know he will do well in the next phase of his academic career. I wish him the best, but I am sad to see him go,” said Folmar.

Indeed, Kennett High School will be sad to see all three of these exceptional students move on, but they should be certain in the knowledge that everyone at 100 East South Street will always welcome them back with open arms.