For Josh Bledsoe, academics come second nature, and it is through hard work, dedication and a commitment to going above and beyond what is asked of him that he has achieved one of the highest academic honors in the nation.

In the fall of 2019, Bledsoe and eight additional Belton High School (BHS) students received recognition for their outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) through the National Merit Program and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. At that time, Bledsoe and former BHS student Rohan Sami were announced as National Merit Scholar semifinalists. Earlier this week, Bledsoe was announced as a finalist of the National Merit Scholar Program, and his educational journey leading up to this achievement has much to show for it.

“It’s a huge honor, and it’s an awesome reward for all the work that I’ve put into high school and middle school, too,” Bledsoe said.

As a senior, Bledsoe has become a model student for his peers and those who hope to follow in his footsteps. The son of a college professor and teacher, education is a high priority in the Bledsoe household, which is why he credits his parents as his chief motivators, both in the world of academia and out. It is through watching and learning from their work that he said he has been able to not only learn, but also to assist those learning around him.

“Once I kind of figured out that I was kind of good at it [education], it inspired me to keep going and see how well I could do it,” Bledsoe said.

When considering the opportunities provided by being named a finalist by the National Merit Scholarship Program, Bledsoe said they extend beyond high school.

“For one thing, it opens up possibilities for the future, which is such a huge thing, especially right before you go into college,” Bledsoe said. “For another thing, it’s a good way to make yourself better and be the best version of you that you can be.”

BHS English Teacher Melissa Fasolino has witnessed Bledsoe’s drive firsthand and added that although there is friendly, academic competition between him and his classmates, Bledsoe is the ultimate team player.

“Even though there’s a competition, anytime people need help, they go to Josh,” Fasolino said. “He’s going to have a successful future because life is about giving back to others.”

Outside of the classroom, Bledsoe has accumulated quite the repertoire of extracurricular activities. Bledsoe founded the BHS Robotics Club his freshman year and has served as the its president during his four years at BHS. He leads the BHS Tiger Media photography team and prom committee, serves as vice president of the community service organization ASTRA and assists with National Honor Society and Student Council in addition to playing the bass guitar and singing at his church. Bledsoe’s interests span far and wide but are centered around his resilient work ethic, and it is this dedication that attributed to his selection as a National Merit Scholar Finalist.

“I think that he’s always striving to improve himself, and I think that that has also enabled him to earn this honor,” Fasolino said.

Bledsoe added that receiving this honor has opened up more opportunities in terms of college scholarships; therefore, he is undecided on which school he will be attending in the fall. Whether he ends up at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University or Rice University, Bledsoe has chosen to major in bionanotechnology.

“So, working with nanotechnology and the human body and, specifically, the neural system and curing things like cancer or fighting paralysis,” Bledsoe said.

This was influenced by his grandmother’s career as a counselor and her work with soldiers, as well as his family’s recent history with cancer.

“If I can do something to help people avoid that [cancer] and the pain and the difficulties that come with that, that would be awesome, and I would feel like I really accomplished something,” Bledsoe said.