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Fall City's Salisbury competes for National Merit Scholarship

FALL CITY - Bill Salisbury may be answering phones and pushing paper now in a senator's office, but you just may be following his orders before too long.

The 17-year-old Fall City boy, currently an intern in Sen. Maria Cantwell's Seattle office, has been recognized as the one of the best and brightest. He recently found out he was a semifinalist for a National Merit Scholarship, which go to top high-school students in the nation. The initial list of candidates for the scholarship is gleaned from a list of students who scored in the top 1-percentile in their state on the PSAT. Of those 50,000, about 16,000 are picked to be semifinalists based on their individual accomplishments at school. Salisbury is the only student from Mount Si High School to be in that group.

Last week, Salisbury sent in his application for the scholarship, which is given to just 10,700 students nationwide. Merit Scholarships of at least $2,500 will go to 8,200 students who can get more if they are sponsored by a corporation or college. The remaining 1,500 students will be eligible for special scholarships, the amounts of which are determined by how much a corporate sponsor is willing to contribute. Salisbury should find out next spring if he won any of the scholarships.

Whatever becomes of the award, Salisbury is looking forward to a future with influence. His two loves are politics and economics; two forces, he said, that create the world we live in. He can't make up his mind yet about what he wants to do with either (or both), but knows that he wants to be a mover and shaker in the world who can, perhaps, make a difference.

"I want to be someone who can help," he said.

Salisbury's family hails from New York State, but they have lived in Fall City for the past six years. He started his freshman year at Mount Si High School, where he has been involved in a laundry list of academic and athletic pursuits from the debate club to tennis. He often serves as the captain or leader of whatever team he is on, and he attended a workshop for high-school students at Oxford in England last summer. Outside of school, he is training to get his black belt in karate by next year and is an acolyte at an Episcopal church in Medina. He also likes to ski.

This year, he got an opportunity to intern for Sen. Maria Cantwell at her Seattle office. He does mostly clerical work, answering phones and doing paper work, but he said the experience is invaluable. He has attended fund-raisers and also helps the staff in Cantwell's office that handles recommendations for students hoping to get into the nation's service academies (i.e. U.S. Military Academy, U.S Naval Academy, etc.).

To do the internship, though, required being in Cantwell's office twice a week, so Salisbury's family looked for another school to work around his new schedule. While he will continue to be involved with his extra curricular activities at Mount Si, Salisbury will attend and graduate from Chrysalis School in Woodinville.

Salisbury said his life is not an endless schedule of studying, but hard work, no matter how early, can pay off for a student.

"If you work hard for a couple of years, [school] gets easier once you are an accomplished student," he said.

Salisbury will be applying at a dozen schools this fall, all located in the South and the East Coast. At the top of his list is Duke University, not just because of its academic reputation, but also because of his family's history there - his mother, father and brother all went to Duke. He will go in as an undecided major that will give him the opportunity to learn as much as he can before making any definite decision about his future.

"I'm still in the state of discovery," Salisbury said.

His father and brother work in finance in New York City, but Salisbury doesn't know if that life is for him. His future is, obviously, limitless, and he has studied hard enough for a long enough time to know that perseverance pays off. It may sound like a formula for ambition, but for Salisbury, the ideas of altruism and influence can go hand in hand.

"What better way to hold a position of power than to help people?" he said.

Editor Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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