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A photo of students walking in the hall at Notre Dame Academy

Going behind the scenes with two National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

Harrison James and Alex Prikockis both prefer not to be the center of attention. The Notre Dame Academy seniors would much rather contribute behind the scenes for projects than playing a leading part in front of an audience. 

However, James and Prikockis knew that wouldn’t be the case on the morning of Sept. 15 as they looked at the script in preparing to produce the video stream each classroom watches at the start of the day. 

“I got an email the day before saying I would need to be there for the morning announcements, which worked out well because I was already on the camera crew so I was going to be there anyway,” Prikockis said. James added, “In the morning announcements planning sheet it had a thing that said, ‘National Merit announcement.’ ... I thought, I know what this is for.” 

It didn’t take much detective work for the friends to figure out they were both momentarily going to have to step out of their comfort zone as NDA principal Patrick Browne brought them on-screen to congratulate them on being National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists this year. 

It’s a recognition bestowed upon students who score in the top 1% nationally on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The NDA Class of 2022 produced five National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists this year. Triston Behrend, Nick Massabni and Chris Mitchell joined James and Prikockis in earning the honor. 

“The NMS Semifinalist distinction is an honor that comes with steadfast academic discipline,” NDA college counselor Becky Bain said. “Having five qualifiers this year is exciting – it is NDA's highest in three years. I am very proud of our students.” 

A photo of two Notre Dame Academy students using video equipment to produce a live stream of the morning announcements

Alex Prikockis (left) and Harrison James (right)

The recognition is a product of the students’ hard work and focus as the NDA faculty continue to keep students on track to achieving their goals through the pandemic. Just as important as helping students obtain high academic marks is giving them as many real-life experiences as possible. The video equipment NDA purchased this year is giving students like James and Prikockis new ways to shine as they learn. 

“It’s huge. I think it’s a game changer,” said NDA teacher Jen Laaksonen, who oversees the students producing the morning announcements. “It has now taken an aspect of our everyday life and school and put it in the hands of the students. They are the ones controlling us getting on-air and writing scripts. So, the technology is a game changer. It turns learning into a hands-on experience.” 

Neither James nor Prikockis see themselves pursuing a career in video production. Still, they both were equally excited when they heard about the new offerings NDA would have for the 2021-22 academic year. 

“It’s fun because you get control over it,” James said. “You’re having an influence on something everyone in the school sees. ... I prefer to be behind the scenes. I almost prefer that if people don’t even know it’s me. It’s more special in a sense that way.” 

Prikockis said, “Before this, I really wasn’t that familiar with video stuff at all. I figured it’s just plug this wire here and use this software. I can probably figure it out. But then seeing this big box that has all these switches and is thousands of dollars. I was like, ‘Whoa, there is a lot more to it.’” 

Laaksonen feels the greatest asset James and Prikockis both have – and will carry through in whatever career path they choose – is their attention to detail. “I think what you find for people that don’t want to be in front of a camera is that their powers of observation are enhanced,” she said. 

James wants to work in the mental health field and is “torn” between doing so through either psychology or psychiatry. Meanwhile, Prikockis enjoys computer programming and feels something relating to computer technology is in his future. 

NDA is working towards offering more career and real-life opportunities as it aims to continue to set the bar high for its array of talented students. 

“I do enjoy the environment,” James said about attending NDA. “I think the most important thing for me that I didn’t realize until recently is the academics are pretty far above what else you could get in the area and since I’m trying really hard to achieve as high I can to get into the best college I can go to, Notre Dame is really important to getting me there.”

NDA's National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

A photo of Triston Behrend


Harrison James


A photo of Nick Massabni


A photo of Chris Mitchell


A photo of Alex Prikockis








Triston Behrend
Behrend has been on the varsity golf team since his freshman year, plays intramural basketball and enjoys downhill skiing. He aspires to work in the medical field.

Harrison James
James is involved with NDA’s tech crew, National Honor Society, Game Club and ASTRA. He wants to work in the mental health field.

Nick Massabni
Massabni is part of Model UN, Investment Club, Math Club, and competes on the boys tennis and cross country teams. Some careers he is considering are becoming a psychiatry physician, an engineer or being involved in business.

Chris Mitchell
Mitchell is a leader on the varsity boys basketball team and a part of French Club. He plans to play college basketball and would like to work in a career that would allow him to travel to many difference places.

Alex Prikockis
Prikockis enjoys computer programming and gaming. He feels working with technology is a strength of his and plans to pursue a career involving computer networking.

This story was published was published in the 2021 NDA Fall Magazine.

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About Notre Dame Academy: Notre Dame Academy is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is a co-ed Catholic high school founded by the Norbertine Order, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Diocese of Green Bay. NDA’s distinctive history embraces the more than 120-year foundation of St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School. NDA offers a globally focused education with a leading IB Diploma Program. Its high-caliber educational community is focused on outstanding learning and creating a lifetime of opportunity for all students.