How to succeed: Top-scoring high-school students share their interests, goals and secrets to becoming National Merit Scholar semifinalists

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones

Dylan Kalvin

Dylan Kalvin

Ryan Roden-Corrent

Ryan Roden-Corrent

Sacha Ian Samotin

Sacha Ian Samotin

Victoria Johanna Barner

Victoria Johanna Barner

Stephanie Twellmeyer

Stephanie Twellmeyer

Scott Wiebel

Scott Wiebel

John White

John White

Taryn Alford

Taryn Alford

Michelle Su

Michelle Su

The Class of 2010 in Collier County has 10 National Merit Scholar semifinalists. They are among only 16,000 semifinalists nationwide, representing less than 1 percent of the takers of the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Most semifinalists pass credentials reviews to become finalists eligible for National Merit Scholar awards covering part of their college expenses. Individual colleges and universities put up other money.

This year’s Collier contingent is comprised of:

Taryn Alford, Michelle Su, John White and Scott Wiebel, from Barron Collier High School;

Jennifer Jones from Gulf Coast High School;

Dylan Kalvin from Naples High School;

Victoria Barner, Ryan Roden-Corrent, Sacha Samotin and Stephanie Twellmeyer, all from the Community School of Naples.

No semifinalists are reported from south Lee County high schools.

The Daily News invited the winners to tell readers about their backgrounds and plans — and secrets of success.


And congratulations to them all. — Jeff Lytle, Perspective editor

Gulf Coast High School

* Name: Jennifer Jones

* Parents: Mark and Kim Jones

* Birthplace: Illinois

* Hobbies: Dance, reading, writing, classic rock

* College plans: Columbia University or University of Florida, journalism

* Secrets of my success: I learn so much better when I’m interested in what is being taught, so for every class I try to relate the material to my life in some way.

Naples High School

* Name: Dylan Kalvin

* Parents: Tom and Karen Kalvin

* Birthplace: Alexandria, Va.

* Hobbies: Soccer, track, music

* College plans: University of Florida, engineering

* Secrets of my success: Pay attention and involve yourself in class discussions and keep up with the work. Learning and understanding will come naturally.

Community School of Naples

* Name: Ryan Roden-Corrent

* Parents: Robin Roden and George Corrent

* Birthplace: Boca Raton

* Hobbies: Music, basketball

* College plans: To attend a strong liberal arts college with a possible focus in the natural sciences

* Secrets of my success: Balance of academics and personal interests such as music and basketball; plans to complete your objectives every day for quality, independent work; organization to find what you need; and determination to work hard, push yourself and never give up.

* Name: Sacha Ian Samotin

* Parents: Sheri and Dr. Myles Samotin.

* Birthplace: New York City

* Hobbies: Talking politics, watching the New York Yankees, relaxing with friends

* College plans: Thinking about political science/government or economics as my concentration, but I’m open to anything.

* Secrets of my success: See my goal clearly; keep my chin up, mind focused; use my time wisely. There are five senses; none serve better than the sixth — a sense of humor.

* Name: Victoria Johanna Barner

* Parents: Frank and Trusha Barner

* Birthplace: Sayre, Pa.

* Hobbies: Creative writing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends, photography and playing guitar

* College plans: I’d like to major in either biology or English with a minor in creative writing, neuroscience or psychology — though journalism is also an option. Essentially I’m undecided.

* Secrets of my success: A love of learning instilled at an early age, the support of my faith, friends and family, and taking advantage of the opportunities I have been blessed with. It is an amalgamation of these things along with others that bring success, and not simply one aspect.

* Name: Stephanie Twellmeyer

* Parents: Elaine and Doug Shuart, Olaf Twellmeyer

* Birthplace: Holtzminden, Germany

* Hobbies: Politics, puzzles, reading, sports

* College plans: I am applying to several prominent research universities.

* Secrets of my success: Dedication, honesty, confidence, enthusiasm — and, above all else, curiosity. For most of the world, success is measured with grades and test scores. I achieve success by improving my understanding and knowledge of the world. With my boundless curiosity, I am constantly discovering new ideas and facts.

Barron Collier High School

* Name: Scott Wiebel

* Parents: Doug and Carol Wiebel

* Birthplace: Naples

* Hobbies: Baseball, working on cars

* College plans: Study engineering and play baseball

* Secrets to my success: Work ethic and persistence, and a family that instilled a desire to work, to always do my best. My brother is seven years older than me. He was a National Merit Scholar, graduated from the University of Miami in biomedical engineering and now is about to finish medical school. I witnessed this and know I have the same potential.

* Name: John White

* Parents: Ed and Allison White

* Birthplace: Fort Myers

* Hobbies: Reading, writing, playing piano and traveling

College plans: I plan to major in English at Brown, Harvard, William & Mary or Yale.

* Secrets of my success: At the risk of sounding cliche, Mark Twain once said: “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Education is a truly endless process that has no limitations. No one should ever resign themselves to being content with what’s put in front of them; they should seek out new knowledge for themselves, making it an individual experience.

* Name: Taryn Alford

* Parents: Paul and Janis Alford

* Birthplace: Naples

* Hobbies: Marching band, drum line and lacrosse

* College plans: My first choice is Brown University; major still undecided.

* Secrets of my success: Having a clear grasp on where I want to go and what I want to achieve; knowing when I am challenging myself and biting off way more than I can chew; and balancing rigorous academics and down time.

* Name: Michelle Su

* Parents: Zhan Su and Xue Qian Chen

* Birthplace: Miami

* Hobbies: Drawing, painting, ice skating

* College plans: I plan to go to Georgia Tech for a degree in engineering, with emphasis on genetic engineering.

* Secrets of my success: A dictatorial attitude. It is all about vision and hard work. You don’t necessarily need to have the most potential, but hard work and ingenuity can really take one to the top. It is important to keep a critical eye even with your hobbies. One should not be satisfied with the creation of “degenerate art.” Life is all about fluidity and adjusting properly.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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