Why we’re Kvelling over the B’nai Amoona Trio


Jordan Palmer

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently announced the 2022 semifinalists in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The Jewish Light has learned that of the St. Louis high school seniors joining the 16,000 students nationally competing for about 7,500 scholarships worth nearly $30 million, three are all members of Congregation B’nai Amoona, the Conservative synagogue in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

David Fox, Sam Opinsky, and Danny Baris all hope to advance to the finalist level in February, and the scholarships will be awarded in the spring.

To get this far, all three took the PSAT test, and needed to score in the top 3 percent of all test takers nationally to get the honor of being  “Commended.” Those who score in the top one percent of all test takers in their state become semi-finalists. There are around 16,000 semi-finalists nationally, 337 are from Missouri this year.

To advance to the finals, the B’nai Amoona Trio has to fill out an application that is similar to a college application. They are asked to provide information about their extracurricular activities, their transcript, an essay, and a recommendation from their high school principal.

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They also need to show an SAT or ACT score to confirm that their PSAT score wasn’t a fluke.

Historically, around 15,000 of the 16,000 semi-finalists become finalists. This info is due in early October, and the students are notified if they reached finalist status by January or February.  Of the 15,000 finalists, about half receive “official” scholarships from either the National Merit Corporation, a sponsoring college, or a corporation. These scholarships are typically around $2000-2500, some are one-time, some renew for 4 years. In addition to the official scholarships, there are a handful of schools that offer incredibly generous (full-ride or full-tuition) scholarships to anyone who qualifies as a finalist.

“Of course we are super proud of him!  He’s an excellent student and we are very proud of his academic achievements,” said Joyce Opinsky, mom of Sam. “It’s great that he’s being recognized for his hard work.  But more importantly, he is really a wonderful, kind, funny young man and we are incredibly proud of him every day!”

“I’m always excited to brag on my kid’s accomplishments,” said David’s mother Allison. “While he is usually incredibly modest about them, he’d want me to share that he’s in the top 100K globally (out of around 16 million) in the game “osu!  If he does become a finalist, I’ll be even more excited if he selects one of the schools that give finalists generous scholarships!

“The National Merit Semifinalist is a great honor that will help bolster his accomplishments,” said Danny’s Mother, Melissa. “We are so proud of Danny for all of his hard work and accomplishments, and we are so excited for all of his opportunities.”