The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


The student news site of Coral Gables Senior High School


Emily Kardjian and Anabella Rodriguez Tread Honorable Road

Beatrice Stampino-Strain
Serving as a rewarding and signifying moment in their high school careers, seniors Emily Kardjian and Anabella Rodriguez are honored with their title as Semifinalists of the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Nationally recognized as a non profit organization known for its prestigious scholarships, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has honored many students since its start in 1955. Despite these large numbers, the real percentage of students that receive recognition or manage to surpass the various levels to receiving the National Merit Scholarship is low. These two factors are what brings about the great sense of pride for Gables seniors, Emily Kardjian and Anabella Rodriguez, both semifinalists for the scholarship.

When observing the necessities to the criteria underlined by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, it is one’s score on the Preliminary SAT/NMSC Test that determines their potential. The actual process behind qualifying for this scholarship is layered, though it has set guidelines to it, much like the PSAT/NMSQT itself. This means that despite the need for a high score, a student must also recognize the fierce competition that this scholarship insinuates.

“It’s more than just a scholarship: having this recognition is something that we can put on college application and it looks good. It really validates your hard work because it implied that you’re top 1% in your state,” senior Emily Kardjian said.

“It’s something that can help me in the future, as it’s obviously very prestigious. It opens up a lot of doors for merit scholarships in the future and for schools to approach me, so it was really nice,” senior Anabella Rodriguez said.

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The national phenomenon that is PSAT and SAT preparation is one caught in extremities, with students across the U.S. working and studying to get high scores, or to surmount their past one. One of the great benefits are the easily accessible online practice tests, though many of these ambitious students resort to tutoring or even having group study sessions. All these are viable methods, though Gables has a way of directly uplifting their students.

“Since Gables offers the opportunity for you to take the PSAT your freshman and sophomore year for free, I went into my junior year feeling pretty confident that I would be able to get a good score. That week leading up to the exam I just did some practice tests that are online, they’re accessible and free to anyone, which is a good resource,” senior Emily Kardjian said.

Although the numbers alter yearly, those of the current 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program display that more than 1.3 million students qualified for entrance. That value had been significantly diminished when a mere 16,000 students were made Semifinalists, these being the students with the top 1% of PSAT scores.

“It was pretty delayed process, considering we took the test last October and I found out around the beginning or middle of September,” senior Emily Kardjian said.

2024 National Merit Scholarship Corporation by Beatrice Stampino-Strain

To then proceed from Semifinalist to finalist, there is an application by which students must complete varying tasks to become a part of the Finalists – made up from 95% of semifinalists.

“Then you have the application process, where you fill out a bunch of personal information…, and then there’s an essay. You also need to send in a current SAT or SAT score, which is basically to make sure your PSAT score wasn’t a fluke,” senior Anabella Rodriguez said.

The opportunities given by the NMSC are those reflected in many forms of scholarships, recognitions and accolades awarded to students. Those who become Finalists are awarded with scholarships, one of which is distinctly known for gifting $2500, known fittingly so as the National Merit $2500 Scholarship. However, apart from the money aspect, this recognition, even as a Semifinalist, can enhance one’s reputation.

“It shows that their hard work pays off, and I know it’s cliche to say that, but when you’re swamped with work and there’s so much going on, when students are given the opportunity to be recognized, it makes them feel fulfilled. All this work is worthwhile, and here’s this scholarship, or here’s this award, to recognize you, so I think that’s a great value,” biology teacher Mr. Molina said.

The attention that is lent to students’ accomplishments and perserverance is immensly vital, and this is the case even more so when school starts getting increasingly stressful. The NMSC has established this for decades, and continues to with seniors Emily Kardjian and Anabella Rodriguez playing a great part as semifinalists. As Gables representatives and individuals, the two of them have accomplished a major feat, bringing inspiration to others who seek a similar opportunity.

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About the Contributor
Beatrice Stampino-Strain, CavsConnect Staff Writer
Beatrice Stampino-Strain is a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Coral Gables Senior High. Following an insightful year in CavsTV, she has now started as a Staff Writer for CavsConnect, looking forward to new writing experiences. Partaking in various clubs, she serves on the boards of the International Baccalaureate Honor Society and Key Club, while also being the Vice President of the Class of 2026. More often than not, she can be seen talking to her friends or reading a book, though not at the same time (she has tried). Always wanting to bond with people, Beatrice finds herself delving into music, literature and television shows as a form of discovery to fuel her expansive curiosity of understanding. She enjoys the unsteadiness of life despite its struggle, and is always anticipating what it will bring to her next.
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