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Libby student is sole county scholar semifinalist

by Phil Johnson
| September 27, 2013 3:07 PM

Like most high-schoolers, Cody Barrick drives his parents nuts by occasionally waiting until the later hours of night before starting an important homework assignment.

His mother wishes he would not play so many video games. By his own account, he is not considered a very cool kid at school.

All of this is fine with the Libby High School senior. While others may see his approach as unusual, it certainly works: Barrick recently was named a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program. He is the only student to earn such an honor in Lincoln County — one of 52 in the state.

The son of Rick, a U.S. Postal Service clerk, and Sarah, a high school English teacher, Cody Barrick stands out with quiet hard work and steely reserve in his understanding and acceptance of self.

“Academics have always been my strong suit,” Barrick said. “Learning just comes naturally. Most of the time I can read something once and have it internalized.”

Sarah Barrick remembers reading to her son every day as a baby. The benefits began showing themselves immediately. During a trip in the family van that Sarah Barrick specifically wanted because of its lack of a DVD player — she wanted the kids looking out the window and reading — she remembers a three-year-old Cody commenting after his mother thought she had seen something.

“It must have been a mirage, mom,” Cody said. “That’s when you think you see something but you don’t.”

A pleasantly surprised Sarah asked where her son had learned that word.

“The Wild Thornberrys,” Cody said, naming a popular Nickelodeon program.

“I guess the TV wasn’t that bad,” Sarah said later.

Around six or seven years old, Cody startled his mother another way. He said he wasn’t athletic like some of the other boys in his class. His mother explained the difference between being gifted at something and the benefits of hard work.

Cody listened.

Although he doesn’t consider himself particularly fast, Barrick is Libby High’s best cross-country runner. He enjoys the exhaustion he experiences after a race and joking how his sport is other sports’ punishment.

When he is out running his mind goes several different places. Sometimes he focuses on the distance. Other times his mind is clear. Occasionally, he will sing a worship song, maybe something by Casting Crowns, a Grammy award-winning Christian rock group.

“Cody is very committed to service,” Sarah Barrick said. “He grew up in churches.”

Cody Barrick looks for peers who share similar morals and values. Oftentimes these are older kids he meets through running or church. Growing up in a small town, Barrick has gone to school with mostly the same kids since kindergarten. He admits that his unwillingness to change his style of dress or actions for the approval of others has driven him away from many of his classmates.

“I take what comes at me for not being cool,” he said. “But if they can’t like me for what I am it’s not worth it to me to change.”

Last year, Cody Barrick took AP English I. His mother taught. Rather than feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable, both mother and son enjoyed the opportunity.

“We have the same humor,” Cody Barrick said, characterizing it as gallows humor.

The pair often exchanges books with each other at home. Cody particularly enjoys fantasy novels. While he admits they are made for younger kids, he names the Adventurers Wanted and Fablehaven series as his favorite reads.

As far as college goes, he is unsure where he will go or what he will study. He likes Montana State and already visited the University of Idaho as well as Gonzaga. Pacific Lutheran University and Seattle Pacific University are contenders, too. Engineering sounds likely for study, but he does not know if he wants to focus on electrical or mechanical. Maybe hydro resources?

No matter where he goes, he will likely receive financial assistance. Barrick is one of about 16,000 seniors nationwide to be named National Merit Semifinalists. Of these students, approximately 8,000 will earn Merit Scholarship awards.

The selection process began last year when Barrick, along with 1.5 million other high-schoolers, took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test. Each year a proportional amount of students from each state are named semifinalists. The number of students in each state is based on the percentage of that state’s graduating seniors out of the national pool. The score typically required to be named a semifinalist is about 210. Barrick scored 217. He has since scored a 32 on his ACT.

Since being named a semifinalist, Barrick has detailed his participation in extra-curriculars like his membership on the school basketball team, participation with Business Professionals of America, jazz band, pep band, skiing and hiking.

While Barrick stands out academically and is willing to forego friendships in an effort to stay true to himself, his principal, Ruth VanWorth-Rogers notes his well-roundedness.

“Cody is a student leader,” VanWorth-Rogers said. “He is definitely a stand-out. I am impressed by his care and empathy for his fellow students.”

Barrick has a girlfriend, a fellow senior, who he began dating when they went to prom together last year. He does not know if they will go to college together, but he appreciates her company. Plus, he finds her cute.

His radio is tuned to country music. He listens to other genres, partially because he shares an iTunes account with his sister, a sophomore. He can sing the words to pop songs, but if it’s up to him he prefers the oldies.

 “Anything before 2010,” Barrick said.

Maybe the whiz kid still has a few things to learn.