She-Nomenon: New Life Academy senior is National Merit finalist
Last year, Demetra Salls was one of more than 1 million high school juniors across the country who took the PSAT, the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship competition.
Last week, Salls, a senior at New Life Academy in Woodbury, learned that she had been named a finalist in the prestigious program.
Winners will be announced beginning in April.
"It took a lot of studying and then a lot of commitment," she said. "Committing myself to better my education has been my top priority ever since I was younger."
An advanced placement scholar at New Life, she also participates in the theater and cheerleading programs. She was named math student of the year in 2015.
Salls recently finished her reign as Ms. St. Croix Valley Outstanding Teen 2016. She volunteers at Woodwinds Health Campus, where she plays jazz and Disney songs on the piano.
She works after school at her family's business, Kinetic Physical Therapy.
"I'm looking at going into electrical engineering with a minor in biology," she said. "That way I can end up in the biomedical field."
Salls's achievements are a win for everyone at New Life Academy, academic dean Becky Wallerick said.
"I think having her become a finalist speaks to the strong academic program we have at New Life," Wallerick said. "She is such a strong, motivated student. She is articulate. She challenges herself. She gives of herself."
Salls is also an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual assault. She developed a presentation titled Staying Safe on Campus, in which she talks to students about using bystander intervention to protect themselves and others. She was scheduled to speak to students at East Ridge High School about overcoming "the bystander effect," when an individual sees a crime taking place but does nothing because they're part of a crowd.
"It's more of a call to action," she said. "I see so much hurt in the community from sexual assault. And I see victims. After a certain point I just got tired of it."