Meet Gulliver's 2018 National Merit Scholarship Competition Semifinalists

By Maegan Azpiazu, Communications Specialist, Grades 9-12

Last year, more than 1.6 million juniors nationwide entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The pool of Semifinalists that comes from that qualifying test represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, and five Gulliver seniors earned Semifinalist recognition.

Leonardo (Leo) Bonanno '19
Leo is no stranger to notching top test scores, having earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. On average, only around one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. Leo is dually enrolled at the University of Miami and at Gulliver, is President of Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), Astronomy Club and Science Competition Club (which he founded). He is a member of the Spanish Honor Society, Cum Laude Society, Chinese Honor Society and National Honor Society and is also involved with Model UN and Chinese Club. Leo studied physics in China this past summer, is a member of the varsity bowling team, serves as an editor for the Principles of Social Science Journal, and is a Project Kickstart team member. At the 2018 Prep Academic Awards Ceremony, Leo received the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Book Award.

Lauren Garbett '19
Lauren is in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and has been involved in Gulliver's Visual Arts and International Business and Entrepreneurship programs for all four years of her high school career. She is President of the Business Club and a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), National Art Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Cum Laude Society. Lauren is also a Peer Health Educator for the Health Information Project, where she teaches health-related classes for freshmen, and she often leads tours and orientations as a Link Leader. This past summer, she taught sixth-grade English language arts as a Breakthrough Miami Teaching Fellow, and she is in the process of starting a collaboration between Breakthrough and the Business Club. At the 2018 Prep Academic Awards Ceremony, Lauren received the University of Pennsylvania Book Award.

Kiran Masroor '19
As a junior, Kiran placed in the top 50 for the National Chemistry Olympiad taking first place in South Florida for the second-straight year. She is dually enrolled at Gulliver and the University of Miami, and is a member of National Honor Society, National French Honor Society, Cum Laude Society, and served as President of the Math Honor Society as a sophomore. Kiran co-founded Gulliver's POWER Club (Promotion of Women's Equal Rights) and is part of the Model UN team. She is also a coding instructor at Girls Who Code Miami, a volunteer at Friendship Circle, and spent over 400 hours doing lab research at the University of Miami Medical Campus in the summer of 2017. At the 2018 Prep Academic Awards Ceremony, Kiran received the Yale University Book Award.

Nicole Nixon '19
Nicole just published her second book, Fire Within: Book II, after publishing her first book, Fire Within: Book I, in November 2017; both are available on Amazon. She is a member of the Scuba Club and the Peer Tutoring Club, in which she tutors Upper School students in select subjects. Nicole is also involved with RaiderVision, helps film school events and is a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), National English Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society (History), Cum Laude Society and Spanish Honor Society. By the time she finishes high school, Nicole will have completed 11 Advanced Placement classes. At the 2018 Prep Academic Awards Ceremony, she received the University of Chicago Book Award.

Rylee Podrog '19
Rylee is in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and is a member of Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), National English Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society (History), Cum Laude Society, Spanish Honor Society, and National Honor Society. She is also involved with the journalism program, STEM Competition Club, Gulliver Prep's Academic Honor Council and has served as editor of the Principles of Social Science journal. Rylee is also a Peer Health Educator for the Health Information Project, where she teaches health-related classes for freshmen, has earned a National Superior ranking on the piano, and is an active member of the Achieve Club for literary service learning. This summer, Rylee completed TIME Magazine's "Best Books of All Time" Challenge, reading a collection of 100 books published internationally since 1923.

To become a National Merit Finalist, a Semifinalist must submit a detailed scholarship application, providing information about his or her academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, received and honors and awards. A Semifinalist must also have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 Semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level, and will be notified of this designation in February. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists.