Six Marion teens recognized by National Merit Scholarship Program

·7 min read

[Editor's note: This story has been edited to add Faith Broersma, a homeschooled student who was not initially listed among those honored.]

Six Marion County students have been honored by 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program, which salutes students who score in the top 3% of 1.5 million entrants from more than 21,000 high schools.

Three Marion scholars are enrolled at Vanguard High School: Diego Carrascosa, Colin McLaughlin and Rushi Patel. A fourth student, Sarah McGinley, is enrolled at Forest High School and the other, Casiel Smith, attends West Port High School. The sixth student, Faith Broersma, was homeschooled.

The 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program will award about $30 million in college scholarships to about 7,500 students.

2021: Two Marion teens recognized by National Merit Scholarship Program

2020: 9 NMS semifinalists from Marion

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High school students enter the program by taking the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) and a National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which are both used to screen the entrants.

The website for the National Merit Scholarship Corp., which oversees the program, says the winners are chosen based on academic record, the school’s curriculum and grading system, and two sets of test scores.

Each student must submit an official written recommendation and information about his or her activities and leadership. The student must also submit an essay. There are three types of scholarships, which are awarded between March and mid-June. Those are:

  • National Merit $2,500 Scholarships: All finalists compete for single-payment scholarships, which are awarded on a state representational basis. Winners are selected without consideration of family financial circumstances, college choice or major and career plans.

  • Corporate-sponsored scholarship awards: Corporate sponsors designate scholarships for children of employees, for residents of the company’s community, or for finalists with career plans that company officials want to encourage. These scholarships may either be renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study or one-time awards.

  • College-sponsored scholarship awards: These awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study.

Marion County's five National Merit scholars (in alphabetical order, clockwise from the top) are: Diego Carrascosa, Vanguard High School; Sarah McGinley, Forest High School; Colin McLaughlin, Vanguard High; Rushi Patel, Vanguard High; and Casiel Smith, West Port High School.
Marion County's five National Merit scholars (in alphabetical order, clockwise from the top) are: Diego Carrascosa, Vanguard High School; Sarah McGinley, Forest High School; Colin McLaughlin, Vanguard High; Rushi Patel, Vanguard High; and Casiel Smith, West Port High School.

Students who are not deemed finalists can still qualify for financial help. Every year some 1,200 of those participants are awarded special scholarships.

To be considered for a special scholarship, students must meet the sponsor’s criteria and entry requirements of the National Merit Scholarship Program. They also must submit an entry form to the sponsor organization.

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Here is a brief synopsis (supplied by the graduate) of the five local semifinalists, listed in in alphabetical order by last name. Some of the finalists shared more than others, but all had the same opportunity to fill out a form detailing their future.

Faith Broersma

Faith Broersma
Faith Broersma

Current school: Homeschooled, dual enrolled at CF

Age: 18

Parents: Brad and Joy Broersma

Previous schools: Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School, Osceola Middle School, and Forest High School

School activities and hobbies: My school activities have included HOSA, NHS, GSA, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at CF; my hobbies include reading, crocheting, and taking care of my abundance of plants.

University: University of Florida

Planned major: Psychology – Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience

Career goal: Neuropsychologist

Comments: "I have already graduated from CF with my AA, so I have a head start on getting the credits I need for my Bachelor’s degree! After I get my Bachelor’s from UF, I hope to be accepted to Yale in order to continue my education and eventually get my PhD.

I would like to start research as soon as possible once I am in college, as I love learning about the brain and finding new information that could help people. I am specifically interested in areas of language acquisition, sleep patterns, and neurodiversity. I hope that my career can have a big impact on people’s ideas of the mind and what it can achieve."

Diego Carrascosa

Diego Carrascosa, Vanguard High School
Diego Carrascosa, Vanguard High School

Current school: Vanguard High

Age: 18

Parents: Dr. Luis Carrascosa and Guisela Carrascosa

Previous schools: Madison Street Academy of Visual and Performing Arts; Indian Trails Middle School in Palm Coast; Flagler Palm Coast High School, freshman year, in the pre-International Baccalaureate program; then transferred to Vanguard High to continue in the IB program.

School activities and hobbies: Four-year varsity cross country and track athlete; member of Fitness and Nutrition In Our Schools club (FANS); Key Club; four-year member of Mu Aplha Theta; National Honor Society member.

University: University of Florida

Major: Physics

Career goal: Medical doctor

Comments: None

Sarah McGinley

Sarah McGinley, Forest High School
Sarah McGinley, Forest High School

Current school: Forest High School

Age: 18

Parents: Lana and Brian Kuhn

Previous schools: Madison Street Academy of Visual and Performing Arts and Osceola Middle School.

School activities and hobbies: Swim team, Engineering and Manufacturing Institute of Technology (EMIT), and HOSA Future Health Professionals.

University you plan to attend: Harvard

Planned major: Chemistry

Career goal: Research

Comments: "I have never really been sure what I want to do as a career. There have been plenty of fields that have piqued my interests, but it is incredibly difficult to pick one and feel like I am giving up the chance to do something else. I am looking forward to trying new things and exploring many different career possibilities throughout my college education.

"I have greatly enjoyed my experiences with engineering and medical courses, and I know the skills I gained from these classes will help me in any career I choose. I am very passionate about chemistry, and at least for the moment, I am hoping to pursue a career in some sort of chemistry-focused research, potentially medical."

Colin McLaughlin

Colin McLaughlin, Vanguard High School.
Colin McLaughlin, Vanguard High School.

Current school: Vanguard High School

Age: 18

Parents: Jock and Jaime McLaughlin

Previous Schools: Ward Highlands Elementary and Howard Middle School.

School Activities: Baseball

University: University of South Florida

Major: Mass Communications with a focus in broadcast journalism.

Career Goal: ESPN reporter

Comment: "When I graduate from college I want to enter the field of broadcast journalism. I have always enjoyed sharing information and am intrigued by the possibilities that both traditional and internet-based outlets offer. Ideally, I would like to pair this with my passion for sports information and pursue a career at an outlet like ESPN."

Rushi Patel

Rushi Patel, Vanguard High School.
Rushi Patel, Vanguard High School.

Current school: Vanguard High School

Age: 17

Parents: Deepa Patel

Previous Schools: Emerald Shores Elementary, Dr. N H Jones Elementary and Howard Middle School.

School activities and hobbies: Tennis, Academic Team, Mu Alpha Theta, HOSA, Key Club, FBLA, Debate, National Honor Society.

University: University of Florida

Major: Biology

Career Goal: Physician

Comments: "For as long as I can remember, I have wanted nothing more than becoming a doctor. However, I have never been able to pinpoint the day that I realized that I wanted to become a doctor, or my initial reason for choosing the career when I was a young child.

"As I grew a bit older, I struggled with identifying the intangible attributes that a young Rushi saw in the doctors around him. As a result, I began to search for these features. Whether it was career presentations in school, volunteering at a local hospital, YouTube videos, interviewing doctors, or competitions for HOSA, I became obsessed with anything that gave me insight into the medical field. The more I learned about medical professionals, the more I grew to appreciate their work.

"It took many years of searching before I reached an epiphany. While assisting patients when I was volunteering, I realized that what I admired in doctors was evident in the happiness reflected on patients’ faces.

"Doctors have the ability to transform the lives of their patients for the better with an amount of control and autonomy not present in any other profession that helps those they serve. Not only do I have tremendous respect for the effects that physicians have on their patients and their service to the community, I also admire their calm demeanor and resolute personality in the face of unfavorable circumstances.

"My recognition of these merits made me even more determined to pursue my original dream. That is why I intend to take full advantage of the resources made available to me throughout my time in college in the hope that I will one day be able to embody the ideals that have inspired me to become a doctor."

Casiel Smith

Casiel Smith, West Port High School
Casiel Smith, West Port High School

Current school: West Port High School

Age: 18

Parents: Ruth and Scott Smith

Previous Schools: Madison Street Academy and Howard Middle School

School activities and hobbies: Chorus (since seventh grade), piano and ballet.

University: University of Central Florida

Major: Undecided

Career goal: Undecided

Comment: None

Joe Callahan can be reached at (352) 817-1750 or email him at joe.callahan@starbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: National Merit Scholarship Program salutes six Ocala/Marion teens