Two Gaither Students Announced Semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship


Photo by Hayley Greenlaw

Seniors Olivia Ratliff (left) and Alani Seaman (right) have been nominated as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Hayley Greenlaw, Staff Writer


Gaither seniors Alani Seaman and Olivia Ratliff have been recognized as semifinalists for The National Merit Scholarship Program. Seaman and Ratliff were two of 126 students chosen from the Tampa Bay area.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition that started back in 1955. To qualify as a semifinalist you have to score an outstanding score on either your PSAT or your SAT. To qualify for a finalist spot you need to apply for the scholarship online. The National Merit scholarship provides $2,500 towards the student’s freshman year of college, and also grants the recipient an exceptionally prestigious title.

Seaman is the president of the Optimix club, a club that participates in many volunteering opportunities and Relay for Life. Other than Optimix, Seaman is also historian for Tri-M club and is in Beta club. Outside of school she plays soccer and flag football.

She has been a part of the Gaither Marching Cowboys for the last four years and has been flute section leader for two.

Seaman did not expect to see her name in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper as a semifinalist for the scholarship, even after scoring a 1450 on her PSAT. “It was really cool. I found out by college emails and the Tampa Bay Times,” said Seaman. “It was a complete surprise, I didn’t know I was going to get it.”

Seaman plans on majoring in astrophysics in college and plans on applying to multiple different schools such as Princeton, Cal-Tech, the University of Chicago and Embry-Riddle. “I plan on probably directly giving it to my college funds. A lot of the schools I’m applying to are very pricey,” said Seaman.

Ratliff has been a part of the Gaither Marching Cowboys for four years, trumpet section leader for two and drum major for one. Ratliff is a part of Beta and Chemistry club and is also secretary of Optimix club. Outside of her regular school day Ratliff takes extra HCC classes and enjoys going to the gym and doing yoga.

Ratliff has been working towards the title of Valedictorian since her freshman year. Ratliff has had her eye on this scholarship for quite some time. “I was so happy. I saw my name in the newspaper and my jaw just dropped. It was just crazy,” she said.

Ratliff wants to become an aerospace engineer and plans on going to Embry-Riddle to further her education, her love for the solar system and space travel. “I think I can make a bigger impact,” said Ratliff. “It’s just really inspiring and something I’m really passionate about.”

Both candidates aim on applying for a finalist spot in hopes to be picked as the winner for the scholarship.