By Crystal Hayduk
William Fredenberg, a 2020 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Chelsea High School (CHS), has been awarded a National Merit Scholarship.
The prestigious honor is based on academic proficiency, leadership ability, and extracurricular achievement.
Of the 1.6 million eleventh graders who take the PSAT test nationwide, students with the highest marks are eligible to compete for the $2,500 scholarship. Ultimately, fewer than 1 percent of students are chosen to receive it.
To become a National Merit Scholar, William traveled a long and winding path that began at home. The son of Paul and Alison Fredenberg, he is the second of ten children. He was homeschooled through eighth grade.
“I’ve always had a deep love for learning and read books when I was done with homework,” says William.
The Fredenbergs moved to a Chelsea farm at the start of William’s sophomore year. “The teachers here are dedicated to their students and make the subjects engaging,” he says. “Other students pushed me to achieve at a high level.”
William took many AP classes, including a few especially notable ones. AP World History emphasized problem solving, opening his mind to new ways of thinking. He learned the benefit of embracing difficulty during the struggle in AP Physics. AP Language honed the useful skill of quickly writing and refining essays.
A National Honor Society member, William was on the 2019 Michigan All-State Quiz Bowl team, and participated in Science Olympiad. He received SEC All-Academic recognition, and was a member of the track and field, water polo, and cross-country teams.
William earned his Eagle Scout rank with a unique and rewarding project. He sewed more than 200 simple flannel dolls called “snoedels” for the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital. “They are used to habituate infants to the scent of their mothers,” he says.
William enjoys spending time with older adults. As a delegate of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he visits homebound members of his church. He also joined the Chelsea Senior Center Woodcarving Club at the invitation of a church member.
“I like making the connection between the wood that was a tree but is now art,” he says.
William believes his love for nature and life on his family’s farm has influenced his academic commitment. “It requires responsibility to care for the animals every day,” he says.
Physics teacher Eric Swager, whom William identified as his most influential teacher, says, “Will possesses an amazing perspective for someone his age. Many young people are impulsive—but Will takes a mature, measured approach in all he does. Bolstered by superb intelligence, this allows Will insight into situations that most people miss.
“Will is respectful but not deferential, and is unafraid to stand firm on principle. His work ethic is amazing, and in spite of his excellence, remains humble and realistic.”
William has been accepted to Harvard, where he intends to study biomedical engineering and join the Air Force ROTC.
But Harvard agreed to wait until he completes a mission for his church. Milan, Italy was in sight until the COVID-19 pandemic put international travel in jeopardy.
For now, William is helping his father, who co-owns the soon-to-open Chelsea Burger (related story here: https://chelseaupdate.com/chelsea-burger-plans-early-spring-opening-in-former-seitz-tavern-location/), and spending time with his family.
“I’ve come full circle—starting out homeschooled and now ending high school at home,” says William. “I really appreciate the opportunity to be at home before leaving for two years.”
William says he’s happy to serve, regardless of the uncertain location of his mission.
Wherever he goes, he’s certain to make an impact.
CHS Principal Mike Kapolka says, “William is not only an outstanding academically gifted student, but he is also one of the most thoughtful, reflective and well-respected students in his class.”