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Academic Excellence at College Park

Sam Benabou (left) and Nate Holden (right)

Academic Excellence at College Park

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

By Cyndy Gifford-Palermo

Nate Holden and Sam Benabou, both College Park High School seniors, were named semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship in recognition of their excellent academic performance. Last fall, both scored in the top 1% of the approximately 1.5 billion juniors taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Both Holden and Benabou have advanced in the competition and are in the running to be named National Merit finalists. They will find out in early 2021 if they have a chance to win $2,500 or one of the many corporate or college sponsored merit scholarships. Both seniors are academic superstars who have taken the most challenging AP and honors courses and are in the top of their graduating class. However, what is truly remarkable about them is what they have been able to accomplish outside of academics.

Nate has just been cast as Orlando in College Park’s production of As You Like It. He has also held roles in College Park’s renditions of Legally Blonde and Crazy For You. Nate is a student choir director and has auditioned and participated in both Regional Honor Choir and All-State Honor Choir. Additionally, Nate is an integral part of College Park’s sailing team, Encinal Yacht Club’s Laser sailboat team, and Richmond Yacht Club’s Junior Program. He regularly competes at regattas throughout the state. This summer, Nate taught kids of all ages to sail at one of the only camps in the Bay Area that was allowed to operate under COVID restrictions. As a part of CourAGE, Contra Costa County’s Youth Health Initiative, Nate creates public service announcements and works to combat vaping and alcohol use amongst teens.

Sam Benabou runs on the varsity cross-country team and is on the executive council of Interact at College Park, where he helps connect students to volunteer opportunities. As a member of the Hamsa Fund, a regional Jewish philanthropy board, Sam collaborates with other teens to fundraise for non-profits that tackle issues ranging from educational inequality to health care accessibility. In the last three years, his group has raised and contributed over $60,000. He has played the saxophone in the CP music program as a member of the wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, symphony orchestra, and sax quartet. He has also worked as a research assistant for a UCSF public health scientist and collaborated on two articles accepted for publication in the Journal of Adolescent Health and Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Additionally, Sam works part-time at In-and-Out. He is the friendly employee working the drive-thru, smiling behind his mask, and never questioning people who order a “cheeseburger - no cheese.”

Both Nate Holden and Sam Benabou are committed to excellence in their academic achievements and their community. Whatever colleges these young men choose to attend next fall will be lucky to include these outstanding young scholars among their ranks.