Ben’s achievements are manifold. He has been on the game show Jeopardy!. He was the youngest organist for a professional sports team in history. He is likely the youngest pianist ever hired by the department store Nordstrom. But these achievements have already been explained on BenSchwartz.net. For achievements of a more academic nature, please see below. If this list of honors, awards, and activities looks like it was copied-and-pasted from a college application or a résumé, that’s because it might have been…
Honors & Awards: National Honor Society; National Spanish Honor Society; Rhode Island Honor Society; Rhode Island Scholars Award; President’s Award for Educational Excellence; 2006 National Merit Semifinalist; 2006 Presidential Scholar Finalist; Brown University Book Award; Spanish Book Award; Continental Math League—Calculus Top Scorer; American Association of Physics Teachers Award; C-SPAN Lincoln Essay Contest Honorable Mention (only entry recognized for any award from New England); numerous high school Student-of-the-Month awards (for World History, AP US History, AP English Language, etc.); high school First Honors with Distinction (every quarter); AP Scholar with Distinction 2006; received the coveted Scholastic Merit Award at high school graduation, presented only to the three top-ranked students; Excellence in Religion, English, and Mathematics awards (presented only to the highest-ranked student of each core discipline at high school graduation)
Activities: Volunteers as a pianist at nursing homes; developed a variety show for charity; mathematics tutor; Continental Math League; Rhode Island Math League; New England Math League; PEGASUS participant 2003-2006 (high school enrichment program); 2005 People to People Student Ambassador (Italy, Spain, France)
One of Ben’s more important achievements has been his participation in the AAA Travel High School Challenge in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In 2004, he blindly took the online test and was surprised to find that he was among the top five scorers in the state of Rhode Island. As a top five scorer, he moved on to the next stage of the competition, a proctored written test administered in a local AAA office. Whoever answered the most questions correctly would be declared the Rhode Island State Champion and would compete in the national finals in Orlando, FL.
Ben was declared the Rhode Island State Champion and traveled to Orlando. 2004 was not the best of years, however, and Ben failed to advance out of the preliminary stage of the national finals, which knocked down the 51 participants (every state and the District of Columbia) to 12 semifinalists.
2005 was better. This time, Ben was once again named Rhode Island State Champion and traveled to Orlando armed with experience. He knew the types of questions which would be asked. Plus, he had studied 400-page reference materials front-to-back in order to prepare for the tough questions. He was able to advance out of the preliminary round of the national finals along with only 11 others, a feat which earned him a $1,000 bonus and a special trophy model. But he was not able to claim the top prizes…
…Until 2006—his third consecutive year as a State Champion (a record for the competition). Over the summer of 2005, Ben had transcribed travel and geography-related information from two reference sources totaling more than 700 pages combined. Because 2006 would be the last year Ben would be eligible (the contest is only open to high school students in grades 9 through 12), Ben knew it would be then or never.
He advanced out of the preliminary stage of the national finals and into the team finals. The 12 semifinalists are split into four teams of three. Two teams face off against each other in two semifinal rounds, and then the two teams which are each victorious in their respective rounds face off against each other for the top prize. Ben was able to lead his team to victory in the semifinal round. Indeed, though the round ebbed-and-flowed between Ben’s team and the opposition, in the last minute of the game Ben’s team was down by more than 50 points. Keeping careful track of time remaining, Ben was able to wow the audience with a rapid-fire series of correct answers which set up a special kind of question asked only of one team, Ben’s team. Just after it was announced Ben’s team would receive this “Final Jeopardy!”-type question, composed of a wager which would either seriously help or severely wound the team, time expired. The buzzer literally sounded. And the other team had more points. However, the rules state that the question must still be asked, so in “negative time” Ben’s team managed to answer a microstate-themed question (answer: Monaco) and secure a thrilling last-minute victory!
This victory gave Ben and his teammates a prize in the thousands of dollars, and also gave Ben a third and final style of trophy to add to his AAA Travel Challenge trophy collection. Indeed, Ben is the only participant in the competition to own one of each of the three different varieties of trophy—1) State Champion, 2) National Semifinalist, and 3) National Champion.