The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition for high school students to receive recognition and college scholarships. Nearly 1.5 million students enter the prestigious competition each year in the hopes of becoming a National Merit Finalist.
This year, three Diocesan high school students have been recognized as finalists: Giana Abbas and Megan Gouldy of Trinity High School in Camp Hill and Susan “Joy” Dawson of Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.
To become a finalist, a student must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the high school principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. The student must also complete an application and essay detailing their participation and leadership in school and community activities.
Meet this year’s finalists from Diocesan high schools:
Giana Abbas is the daughter of Tom and Monique Abbas. Her younger sister, Aviana, is a sophomore at Trinity High School. The family are members of St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg.
Giana made local news last year as a junior by recording a perfect ACT score of 36 in all categories of the test. She entered her senior year with a weighted GPA of 4.57 (4.0 scale). She passed Advanced Placement examinations in Chemistry, Statistics, United States History and World History before entering her senior year. Outside of class, Giana has competed on the varsity tennis team and on the Mock Trial team, where she has played the role of an attorney.
Giana retains a deep commitment to service despite her intense academic schedule. She served as a Student Mentor Leader within Trinity’s House System, which places every student and staff member into one of four houses that reflect the Catholic mission of the school. The essence of the system are the small mentor groups that meet each day for activities and discussion devoted to all aspects of a healthy high school life. As a Student Mentor Leader, Giana planned and implemented all of the daily activities of her group. Trinity fills these coveted positions with a competitive selection process involving an application, faculty ratings and interviews.
Giana also gives her time and abilities to “Community Voices Together.” This volunteer program pairs special-needs students at Cumberland Valley High School with Trinity students to complete service projects needed within the greater community. These special-needs students also bond with a “buddy” like Giana at the same time.
Giana has earned membership in the St. John Neumann Chapter of the National Honor Society, as well as in Mu Alpha Theta (National Math Honor Society) and the Foreign Language Honor Society at Trinity High School.
Megan Gouldy is the daughter of Dr. Christine and David Gouldy. The family attends St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg. Megan entered her senior year with a weighted GPA of 4.42 (4.0 scale). In her first three years at Trinity, Megan passed Advanced Placement examinations in United States History and World History. She has recorded an ACT Composite score of 35, placing her in the 99th percentile nationwide.
Outside of class, Megan enjoys developing her musical talents in a variety of ways. She performs for the marching band in the percussion section, and this year served as the section leader. Megan also performs with the indoor percussion team, a group that took second place at the TIA Atlantic Coast Championships (Tournament of Bands) in Wildwood, N.J., in 2017 and 2019. Outside of school, Megan is an award-winning pianist who has offered numerous recitals and competed both locally and nationally with success.
Megan places service to others at the center of her life. In her junior year, she earned her Gold Award with the Girl Scouts of America. Her capstone project, “The Reading Corner,” involved planning, furnishing and stocking a reading room at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in the Harrisburg School District for children who lack easy access to reading materials in their daily lives.
Megan has earned membership in the St. John Neumann Chapter of the National Honor Society, as well as in Mu Alpha Theta (National Math Honor Society) and in the Spanish Honor Society at Trinity High School.
Megan is still waiting for her final college acceptances. She plans to major in engineering (civil or environmental).
Susan “Joy” Dawson
Susan “Joy” Dawson is a senior at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg. She is the daughter of Timothy and Julie Dawson of Harrisburg. Susan’s high school GPA for the past four years has consistently remained over a 4.56, on a 4.0 scale. She started taking Honors-level courses in the beginning of her high school career, and continued to do so throughout her senior year, while taking on additional Advanced Placement courses. Susan knows how to be consistent, but also how to challenge herself. Her academic achievements have led to her induction into the National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society, and Foreign Language National Honor Society.
Susan has been involved in the Christian Service Club and the Spanish Club, as well as acting as a Student Ambassador. Susan’s interests include dedication to dance at the Wevodau Dance Center, which is something she has been passionate about for the past 11 years, while teaching dance there for five years. Susan attends Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church and volunteers there with Sunday school classes for kids and choreographs their praise dance team.
Susan also participated in the Harrisburg University Forensic Science Camp last summer, which gave her first-hand experience that helped confirm her desire to enter into a five-year fast-track BS Forensic/MS Chemistry program. Susan will be attending the Honors College at the University of New Haven in the fall.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness