MVRHS senior receives National Merit Scholarship

Jaiden Edelman receives honor after entering semifinals of Presidential Scholar Competition.

Jaiden Edelman performs with his band Era of Good Feelings at Alex's Place in 2018. — Gabrielle Mannino

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) senior Jaiden Edelman is being honored as a National Merit Scholar (NMS) and has entered the semifinals of the Presidential Scholar Competition.

Students qualify for the National Merit Scholar Award by having exemplary Preliminary SAT (PSAT) test scores. According to their website, more than 1.5 million juniors from around 21,000 high schools qualified for the award, and less than 8,000 students will receive the award by the end of this year.

The last MVRHS students to win the NMS Award were Astoria Hall in 2019, and Jade Livingston in 2016.

Only 621 semifinalists in the country were identified for the Presidential Scholar Competition based on their SAT scores, and Jaiden is one of 11 semifinalists in Massachusetts.

According to Jaiden, he was filling out applications and writing essays to submit for the awards around the time he was applying to Harvard University.

“It was definitely a bit stressful at times,” he said. “It was a lot of writing and was especially stressful when you know you have some good ideas for the essays, but you are waiting for that one that is just right to come along.”

Jaiden said that on top of his regular schooling, which included taking college level math courses from Stanford University for the past two years and taking a lead role in the high school’s annual play, it was difficult for him to find time to submit applications.

“I tried my best to take my time and really focus on the essay topics, without procrastinating too much,” Jaiden said. “It was definitely a tough balance.”

Jaiden called himself “a big math guy” and said that he has enjoyed problem solving for as long as he can remember, but he also likes to think outside the box. He plays saxophone and piano with his band Era of Good Feelings, and enjoys writing.

“I’ve been playing saxophone since I was in fourth grade, and I am heavily involved in the theater program,” Jaiden said. 

He is also a star soccer player on the MVRHS varsity team.

For Jaiden, his passions and interests drive his school experience, and everything that he pursues both inside and outside of school are purely for the joy of learning.

“I just like to do these things. That’s why I do them. I think the people involved with these awards are looking for sincere and passionate people that aren’t just doing the extra work to build a resume,” Jaiden said.

Last summer, Jaiden traveled to the New Mexico Institute of Technology as part of the Summer Science Program, a competitive program where high school students experience college-level education and research celestial mechanics or biochemistry. He studied images of a near-earth asteroid and calculated its orbital path and the chance that it will impact earth. 

Currently, Jaiden is entering Harvard as either an applied physics or math major, but said he might change that later on. “I have always been interested in math. But more that that, I am interested in the fundamentals of how things work.”

If Jaiden wins the Presidential Scholar Award, he would normally travel to Washington DC to be honored at the White House, but he said he isn’t sure that will happen depending on the pandemic situation. 

Instead of awarding students monetarily, the Presidential Award offers students research funds for a particular project that they can pursue when in college. 

Jaiden said there is a long list of people to thank for supporting him through his academic career so far.

“My mom is a teacher, my dad is a musician. They both encouraged me to do what I wanted — not everyone has that opportunity,” Jaiden said.

He also thanked his MVRHS teachers for sticking to learning for learning’s sake, instead of just throwing content at the class. “They are really invested in exploring ideas with students and engaging them, instead of just shoving information down their throats.”

And Jaiden said the guidance department at the high school has supported him through his entire time as a student, and made it easier to deal with the strenuous process of applying for scholarships while simultaneously applying to the most competitive institutions for higher learning in the world.

In the future, Jaiden said he could envision himself being a college professor by day, and a musician by night.

Erika Mulvey,  Jaiden’s guidance counselor at MVRHS, said “he is definitely a standout among standouts.”

“He is incredibly humble and truly loves to learn for fun. He will take on immense challenges because he likes to challenge himself and has an insatiable curiosity for learning,” Mulvey said.

One of Jaiden’s outstanding qualities, according to Mulvey, is his willingness to take advantage of every opportunity possible, and put all his effort into the things he is most interested in.

“There were many nights where I would leave the school pretty late and his car would still be in the parking lot,” Mulvey said. “He is a stage performer, a vocalist, a chess player, a star athlete. And none of it is to build a resume, he genuinely enjoys all these things.”

While the goal of guidance counselors at MVRHS is always to guide students through the preliminary stages of the post-secondary education process, Mulvey said she basically followed Jaiden’s lead. 

“He is incredibly independent and took it upon himself to apply for these awards and to some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. This kid needs to be in a place where his mind is challenged,” Mulvey said.

Every day during his senior year, Mulvey said Jaiden’s calm and reassuring voice would come over the loudspeaker to give a morning announcement to students.

But he brought a different spin to the regular announcement by reading a different random fact every day. “That just kind of gives you an idea of the type of person Jaiden is,” Mulvey said