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Community profile: Glenwood Springs High standout stitches together National Merit Scholarship bid

Glenwood Springs High School senior Hannah Feeney is a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

By her own lofty standards, Glenwood Springs High School student Hannah Feeney admits that she didn’t study that much for the PSAT.

Between her slew of extracurricular activities, her fashion design passion, tutoring and other school work, the test didn’t take priority for the then-junior in October of last year. She already had her toes dipped in plenty of pools.

But after scoring among the top 16,000 students in the country on the practice test that was on the backburner, Feeney earned a semifinalist bid for the National Merit Scholarship Program with a chance to go further in the coming months. Now, the PSAT is a focal point of Feeney’s present and future as she applies for finalist status and the wheels begin to turn about what doors such an accomplishment may open for her.

“They told us this test actually matters but not really,” Feeney said. “It’s a lot of emphasis on this one standardized test that I took in a few hours. Like, that’s now a big part of my life? OK.”

A scholar with a long track record of excelling in whatever she pursues, Feeney has established herself in Glenwood Springs High School’s theater, mock trial and pride groups. She’s climbed the ranks in each and still manages to be a top-tier student.

Feeney isn’t entirely sure what the accolade will mean for her yet. She’s already a standout gradewise, so the award isn’t a prestigious outlier in her track record to hang her hat on. She already believes she can get into strong colleges. But for someone who sinks her teeth into so many things with such vigor, she’s not even sure that’s the direction she wants to go.

Glenwood Springs High School senior and National Merit Scholarship semifinalist Hannah Feeney works on a project in her sewing class at school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

PASSION FOR FASHION

Feeney’s dream higher education situation is studying fashion at a school in New York. She believes if she goes there, she can immerse herself in the fashion community, even if she ultimately goes for another major.

It would be just another step toward turning a longtime passion into something more, possibly even a career.

Feeney has been in theater since she was little. But when she reached high school, the spring play and the mock trial season schedules constantly butted heads.

Instead of axing one or the other completely, Feeney found a compromise — working in costuming instead of being an on-stage talent. It led to the discovery of a fascination with historical wardrobing and a realization of her own personal style. She now does what she calls “Whatever the Heck is That” Thursday, where she wears outrageous clothing, like belle ball gowns.

For the upcoming theater season, she’s heading the costuming department, which has been run by staff or parents in the past.

Feeney said she’ll lead a team of eight to 10 people and improve her fashion resume even more.

Glenwood Springs High School senior and National Merit Scholarship semifinalist Hannah Feeney works on a project in her sewing class at school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

BEING HERSELF

It’s what Feeney does — when she gets interested in something, she goes all in. She climbed the ladder in the costuming ranks to a place that didn’t exist before she got there. In the pride club, she acts as a vice president of sorts and has helped to grow the group five-fold. In mock trial, she won several awards, coach Isabel Carlson said.

“Hannah is someone who gives her all to everything she does,” Carlson said. “She has a unique way of looking at things that enriches the experience of everyone around her.”

Feeney attributes it to ADHD. She says she hyper focuses on a given thing, and then has to introduce variety, be it other extracurriculars or something else, to avoid burnout.

As a result, she’s learned in several different fields but is also painfully aware of the need for a work-life balance. She cited that as a main concern about going to a standard-path, traditional college.

“That’s not exactly where I was really planning on heading with my life,” Feeney said. “I’m prioritizing my own experience of college rather than, like, going to an Ivy League.”

She said taking a different path in life was an idea that her parents instilled in her when she was young. Nichole Feeney, a pediatrician at Grand River Health, has promoted a sense of individuality and carving one’s own path, as did Ryan Feeney, who would debate with Hannah and her siblings even from a young age about current events and spur critical thinking.

Nichole and Ryan met in a liberal arts college in Tennessee in their eventual pursuits in medicine and law. They developed their relationship on the school’s mock trial team, a major factor in Hannah’s fascination with the organization.

They’ve wanted to foster an ability for Hannah to pursue her own path, as they’ve done with all their children. The award just solidifies it for Hannah.

“I want her to be able to have the opportunity to pursue whatever to find her true happiness, whatever path that is,” Nichole Feeney said. “I think this gives her that opportunity.”

Hannah Feeney will learn in January or February if she will be among 15,000 finalists. Then, in between March and June, she’ll learn if she’s one of the 7,500 Merit Scholar designees. It’ll open the door to around 7,500 scholarship opportunities and a chance for her to take her life in whatever direction she chooses.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.