Nine seniors from the Class of 2023 have been named National Merit Finalists, marking the largest number of OCS students in one year to be honored.
A big round of applause goes to Ethan Bergman, Harrison Browning, John Chung, Connor Claeys, Nico Conway, Aidan Flintoft, Aiden Mardani, Kayla Youhanaie, and Enming “Tiger” Zhang for being the National Merit Finalists!
"We are so proud of this group! This accomplishment is so well deserved and is reflective of the sacrifice, dedication, and perseverance displayed by each of them. It is also emblematic of the entirety of our academic culture, one that is nurtured every day in every classroom in every conversation," said Dr. Matt Northrop, associate head of school for academics and arts.
Reflecting further on the historic achievement, he added, "The fact that there are nine recipients reflects beautifully upon our engaging, knowledgeable, inspiring faculty and staff and the culture of care they consistently provide in and out of the classroom."
The National Merit Scholarship Program is the nation’s premier academic scholarship program showcasing seniors with outstanding academics and future potential for college success. Eligible high school students qualify based on their preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test at the specified time in the high school program, usually as juniors.
Below are high school career highlights for each finalist:
Ethan Bergman is an Institute of Engineering student, an Eagle Scout, a pole-vaulting athlete, and is going to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo for engineering and pole vault! Activities he likes and is involved with are the National Honor Society (NHS), Roaring Lion Newspaper, piano, Physics Bowl, Westmont Mathematics Field Day Team, advanced drawing, and painting.
Harrison Browning is interested in science and history and enjoys making unexpected connections between the two. He is involved with an architecture summer program, has an architecture internship, and is in an architecture club. Activities he likes are NHS, touring art museums, flipping a balisong, cooking, nature, building computers, playing squash, and driving a manual transmission.
John Chung is an Institute of Engineering student, has attended the COSMOS Summer Program at the University of California, Davis, and is an oboe player in the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra. Activities he like are NHS, Roaring Lion Newspaper, Physics Bowl, Westmont Mathematics Field Day Team, advanced drawing and painting, Association of American Medical Colleges, and rock climbing.
Connor Claeys is a varsity basketball player and a classically trained pianist. He has lived in Switzerland for four years, is part of the boys’ dance team, and loves history and economics.
Nico Conway is a lacrosse player, captain, and coach. He will attend Bowdoin College in the fall and play lacrosse. Conway loves history and art history and has done internships with friends of the Vatican & Ocean Institute in Dana Point. Conway enjoys art and art history and visits museums in whatever city he finds himself at that time. Activities is involved with are Lion’s Voice Ambassador, Cyberpatriot Club, and Italian Fine Dining Club.
Aidan Flintoft transferred to Oaks Christian School during his junior year. As a football player, he has signed his letter of intent to play for Stanford in the fall. He is also a Teen Hotline volunteer, a peer counseling hotline program out of Cedar Sinai for struggling teens. Volunteers are required to complete 65 hours of training and a monthly commitment to staff the hotline. Activities he is involved with are Oaks Christian Lead Like a Lion Football Captain, Rams Rise for social justice, and student board member for a violence intervention program.
Aiden Mardani transferred his junior year to Oaks Christian School. He is a member of the Oaks Christian National Economic Challenge team, a Thousand Oaks Teen Center volunteer, an intern for Councilman Tabatabai, an author, and a contributor to several research projects. He worked on the front lines in his mother’s medical office during the peak of COVID. He is also a National VEX Robotics award winner. Activities he enjoys are Persian Club, Business and Investing Club, Artificial Intelligence Club, Fencing, and College Counseling Ambassador.
Kayla Youhanaie is an Institute of Engineering student and student leadership representative, a member of the Student Leadership Prefect Board, and co-president of FemSTEM. She created and organized STEM projects for local Boys and Girls Clubs over the summer. Youhanaie’s significant research experience was published in the Journal of Student Research. Activities she likes are the Oaks Serve team, musical theatre, and the NHS. She will be attending Northwestern University in the fall.
Enming “Tiger” Zhang is an Institute of Engineering student, founder, and president of the Oaks Christian physics team, and has been a member of the Oaks Christian golf team since freshman year. Zhang participates in Zooniverse, a citizen science platform where anyone can help analyze data for ongoing research. He is currently working on a project called Gravity Spy, in which he analyzes data from the LIGO detector (operated by MIT and Caltech) to help the researchers train algorithms to analyze data. After completing two AP Physics courses, he completed AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism and AP Physics C: Mechanics. He has been involved with the physics summer program at The University of Pennsylvania and the summer research program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.