High School Scholar Earns First-Recruit Status


By Rita Robinson | LB Indy

Earning the National Merit Scholar can be the admission ticket to any college or university of choice, and Aviva Meyers now has her pick.

Aviva Meyers
Aviva Meyers

Aviva, a senior at Laguna Beach High School, is the school’s only National Merit Scholar this year out of 1.5 million national applicants vying for the desirable award. Meyers caught the attention of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation with her PSAT score, the practice test high school students take nationwide in their junior year. Hers was 2270. Her score on the real test in her senior year was 2330; the highest score achievable is 2400. Her GPA is 4.68. In California, 222 high school students qualified for the NMS, according to survivingthecollegeapplicationprocess.com.

In previous years, students who fell below the accepted median GPA for Ivy-League admission but who earned the National Merit Scholar honor due to test scores and essays were welcomed with open arms at prestigious private universities, said Dawn Hunnicutt, LBHS career guidance specialist.

They are the first recruits, she said.

“When the names of the National Merit Scholars from around the country are released, the colleges put first dibs on them,” said Hunnicutt, relaying the information from officemate Lynn Gregory, the high school’s scholarship coordinator. “They’re highly recruitable.”

Stanford University in Palo Alto is Aviva’s college of choice. She was also accepted at Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York, Tufts University in Boston, Brown University in Providence, R.I., the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and New York University in Manhattan.

High test scores aren’t the only go card. Semifinalists are asked to write an essay with a prompt. This year’s prompt, recalled Aviva, was “something about, ‘what was your most meaningful experience from last year?’”

She wrote about a student science team she was part of that designed and developed a river water purification system for a school in Kenya. The essay covered all the topics that tantalize an admission’s officer: chemistry, writing, math, design, communications, economics, politics, international relations and a key ingredient. The project was a group effort. Collaboration is high on the list of qualities that attract colleges, and future employers.

“I think that’s something people really like to hear about,” said Aviva. “They like to hear about teams bringing a lot of different skills together to create something great.”

Advanced students in teacher Steve Sogo’s after-school science lab completed the project that won a Lemelson Foundation award through MIT’s Engineering School, which supports ideas that foster economic growth in developing countries, and a TEDx Orange Coast teen science competition award. Both totaled $11,500. The device will be showcased at MIT’s EurekaFest in Boston this June.

“Aviva has been one of our leaders from the beginning of the project to its successful completion,” said Sogo. “And now she’s working on an electrical-mechanical bacteria sensor that detects bacteria instantaneously.”

Aviva included in her essay that she was the primary writer of the project’s proposal. As secretary general of Model United Nations at the high school, a student group modeled after the national organization, she also made contacts at the Oloolaimutia Elementary School in Kenya. It’s the type of work she wants to do in the future.

Her future, she said, lies in the sustainable. She wants to work in “economic and environmental policy and science to produce sustainable technology,” primarily with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. She also started the creative writing club on campus last year and will pursue different types of writing, keeping her eye on becoming published. Her club of 10 other writers are in the throes of producing the school’s first literary magazine. Aviva also is a dance student and performs in recitals.

Of the 1.5 million National Merit Scholar applicants, there were 16,000 semifinalists this school year. The semifinalists were the highest-scorers on the PSAT from each state, who were then asked to submit essays. LBHS senior Grant Barton was also a semifinalist. In total, 15,000 receive the prestigious award, which includes a $2,500 scholarship check. The real prize is in leap-frogging to the front of the admission process, said Hunnicutt.

“It’s kind of weird to be leaving the place where I’ve lived my entire life, but I’m very excited,” Aviva said.

She has received $1,300 more in scholarships so far and has applied for others that will be announced at the high school’s honors convocation awards in June.

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  1. I have followed Aviva for many years and, as a rudimentary writer, enjoyed her literary output through the years with a serious chuckle. I am also her ecstatic grandfather, believing that I am the root cause of her great and fascinating work, despite or instead of both her extremely bright parents. May Aviva rise to the heights of her great talents for the good of man and womankind.

    With great caring and high respect, her respectful and appreciative Grandfather, Saba Nachum.


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