Seventeen-year-old Brian White's teachers say he is a man of many talents.
He is one of the top students at Hilton Head Island's Heritage Academy and plans to attend Princeton University this fall.
He is an internationally ranked Irish dancer and began studying ballet this year.
His English teacher calls him one of the best writers she has ever taught.
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And this week, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced White is one of 29 South Carolina high school students -- and the only in Beaufort County -- to win the title of Merit Scholar and a $2,500 scholarship in its annual competition.
The 2,500 winners nationwide were chosen from a pool of more than 15,000 finalists. Those students were judged by the corporation to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies, according to a news release.
Sarah Hobson, White's literature teacher, called him a deserving winner who loves learning. The conscientious and compassionate student produces creative work and doesn't stop learning when the school day ends, she said.
"He doesn't learn for a grade," Hobson said. "He sees the value of it and appreciates the value of an education. ... Everyone at this school will miss him next year."
White said he is "unimaginably excited" to join his older brother at Princeton. He plans to major in molecular biology and minor in dance but isn't sure yet if he'll pursue a career as a medical researcher or dance professionally.
Science has always been his favorite academic subject.
"There's something just fascinating about life to me, about studying how living systems work," he said.
But White has been passionate about dance since he was a child. He began studying Irish dance in second grade, when he would walk with his classmates to a studio across the street from his elementary school.
During the past 10 years, White has competed five times in the World Irish Dancing Championships. He placed 13th in last year's competition in Glasgow, Scotland.
He took a break from Irish dancing this year after injuring his foot but began studying ballet at the Hilton Head Dance Theater.
"I really love the fact that when performing, I can just forget about everything," White said. "I can forget about the stress and my insecurities and what other people think about me and really live in the moment and love what I'm doing."
National Merit also awards scholarships sponsored by corporations and colleges to other students who are named finalists in the program. Those winners are announced throughout the spring. Hilton Head Island High School student Haley Stuligross learned last month that she has won a corporate-sponsored scholarship.