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East County Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 9 months ago

East County students score big on PSAT

Two Braden River seniors and one from Lakewood Ranch High named National Merit Scholar semifinalists.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Three area high school seniors are among the brightest students in the country.

Out of the more than 1.5 million juniors who took the PSAT in 2018, Braden River High’s Madigan Wilford and Jake Whiddon and Lakewood Ranch High’s Claire Davidson were named semifinalists for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program.

They were three of five students in the School District of Manatee County to earn the distinction.

Wilford, Whiddon and Davidson became semifinalists as a result of being some of the highest-scoring entrants in Florida and could win scholarships. Here is a look at the three students.

Finalists will be notified in February.


Claire Davidson

Davidson was having a rough morning Sept. 12. She was in a car accident on her way to school.

When Davidson arrived at the school during second period, she was called into Principal Dustin Dahlquist’s office.

Dahlquist escorted Davidson to her classroom, where the day became a little bit brighter with the announcement that she is a 2020 National Merit Scholar semifinalist.

“It was exciting,” Davidson said of the announcement. “I wasn’t expecting the announcement until [Dahlquist] made it in front of the whole class. It was kind of a big deal.”

Davidson qualified as a semifinalist with a PSAT score of 1470 out of a maximum 1520.

“It’s so cool,” Davidson said. “It’s really an amazing experience, and to be a part of the top kids in the country is a great feeling.”

Next fall, Davidson will attend Duke University to play softball and said she will have a major related to accounting or finance because math is her strong suit.

Davidson plays on Lakewood Ranch’s softball and volleyball teams.


Jake Whiddon

Whiddon received a text saying “congratulations,” but he didn’t know what it was regarding. 

Braden River High School senior Jake Whiddon is a 2020 National Merit Scholar semifinalist. He earned a score of 1500 on the PSAT.

He went to his guidance counselor’s office, where he was told he was a National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist, and everything came together.

Whiddon qualified to be a semifinalist with a score of 1500.

“I usually do OK, but not this well,” he said.

He was most excited about the possibility of obtaining financial aid for college.

“Paying for college is really expensive, and this can make it a little bit more manageable,” he said.

Whiddon participates in band and the symphony orchestra and is on the Academic Team and National Honor Society.

He hasn’t decided which college he wants to attend.


Madigan Wilford

Wilford heard she was a semifinalist from her guidance counselor. 

Braden River High School senior Madigan Wilford is a 2020 National Merit Scholar semifinalist. She earned a score of 1480 on the PSAT.

She qualified with a score of 1480 on the PSAT.

“I was really excited because I know that being a semifinalist opens up a lot of the great scholarship opportunities that the National Merit program offers,” Wilford said. “It’s pretty cool and very useful when you consider the financial aspect of it because any scholarship money will help.”

Besides being a member of the National Honor Society, Academic Team and band, Wilford also enjoys reading and doing karate.

She is undecided about college.

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