Today he is an employee of the local McDonald’s and a senior at Dickinson High School, but in the near future, he will be leaving on his adventure of higher education, which could very well be at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The young man’s name is William Bleyenberg, and though his road to Cambridge has yet to be determined, a recent nomination could help him on that path.
Bleyenberg is one of 64 North Dakota high school seniors to have been nominated for the ND Presidential Scholar honor and only one from Dickinson.
“I would always take a bunch of different stuff and mix it into a cup and be hoping I could make a chemical reaction, but of course it wouldn’t work because I was 8 years old and didn't have a basic concept of chemistry,” Bleyenberg said. “I have taken classes like AP biology and I was one of the few people in class that was sincerely interested in it; it was fun to me.”
Being part of a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including Science Olympiad, Math Club, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and several more, it could be said that academics came more naturally to Bleyenberg, but a push from his family has kept him focused.
“My mom read to my sister and I since the second we were born, she always wanted us to get a college education so that we can be more than the life she had set for herself ... My sister, who goes to MIT currently, has motivated me to do a lot of things that I otherwise would not have attempted, like she was the one who got me into the science bowl and this year I was the A-team captain,” Bleyenberg said. “I am also the secretary of my FBLA (SPELL OUT) chapter and Math Club; I know colleges love that and personally I also love that because it's fun to compete and see how much I know.”
Being named as a Presidential Scholar is one of the most prestigious awards a high school senior can receive. Candidates qualify through SAT or ACT college entrance exams and a nine-page application that could take up 16 hours to complete.
“Even being nominated for consideration as a Presidential Scholar is considered a high honor,” State Superintendent Kirsten Baesle said. “It signifies that the student has an outstanding academic history and a record of accomplishment.”
Already, Bleyenberg has received the North Dakota Presidential Scholarship, which offers him a full ride to any university within North Dakota. As of right now, he plans to attend North Dakota State University to get a degree in microbiology, but Bleyenberg is as adventurous as he is ambitious, and hopes that if he receives the Presidential Scholar honor it will open the doors to MIT. In his high school career, he has achieved an ACT score of 35 and a GPA above 4.0 but knows that the average student accepted to MIT also has those qualifications.
“ If (MIT) saw that I got accepted for this honor then I think that would set me apart and give me an edge from a lot of the other candidates,” said Bleyenberg.
Bleyenberg ended his talk with The Press with words of advice to kids.
“Take any opportunity that comes to you, join any and all clubs that you can and shoot for a leadership position if possible,” Bleyenberg said. “ People just don't care about school anymore and assume that it's not important, but it is. You can get so many scholarships and make a better life for yourself if you fully dedicate yourself.”
In June, Presidential Scholars will receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they will be presented with a special medallion and have opportunities to meet national and international notables in education, music, science and other disciplines.