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East County Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 5 days ago

Two east Bradenton students named National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists

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Students at Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Before taking the PSAT his junior year, Sam Leavy, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School, took several PSAT practice tests to prepare. 

He would spend some time each day studying, even if it was only for 10 or 20 minutes. 

When it came to the actual exam, Leavy felt a bit unsure during the reading portion but was confident in the math portion. 

“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” Leavy said. “I never come out too confident.”  

Leavy was thrilled to see he scored 1490 on the test and he was named a semifinalist for the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program. 

“It’s rewarding because you put in the work to be one of the better scores out there, and it’s a rewarding feeling to see your hard work pay off,” Leavy said.  

Leavy was one of seven students in the School District of Manatee County to be named a semifinalist, including Braden River High School’s Liam Wilford, Palmetto High School’s Coral Bell and Southeast High School’s Alexander Aldama-Apodaca, Madison Barendse, Samuel Maurer and Jonathan Xavioer. 

Merit scholars are selected based on their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

The National Merit Scholarship Program offers 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships, 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships and 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarships. 

Liam Wilford, a senior at Braden River High School is named a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Wilford and Leavy will find out if they are finalists in February and whether they are winners of a scholarship between April and July. 

Wilford said being a semifinalist opens doors to new opportunities. 

“I wouldn’t have to worry about getting other scholarships and it gives me more options for where I can go to college,” Wilford said. 

Although Wilford usually doesn’t have to study much for tests at school, he felt pressure to do well on the PSAT. Unlike other exams like the SAT and ACT, students only have one chance to score well on the PSAT.

Leavy and Wilford both are dedicated to their academics taking several Advanced Placement courses while also balancing extracurriculars.

Sam Leavy, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School is named a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

“I’d like to think of myself as a good student, one that the teacher can rely on to always show up to class prepared to work hard, to answer questions and do well on the test,” Leavy said. 

As this year’s juniors prepare to take the PSAT, Leavy and Wilford shared some advice.

Leavy suggested studying every day and to start studying months in advance. 

“What most people think is, oh, it’s a couple months away and then it gets to be two weeks before,” Leavy said. “It creeps up on you, so just always be studying a little bit every day. It can just be 10 or 20 minutes and it will help your score.”

Wilford said taking practice tests and knowing testing strategies is helpful, and students should take their time while taking the exam.

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