WOHS senior wins National Merit scholarship

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WINTER GARDEN — It’s been a long road — one that stretches back nearly half of Emily Crowell’s high-school career.

But earlier this month — and just a few weeks before she graduates from West Orange High — Crowell learned she had achieved one of the most prestigious titles of her life: National Merit Scholar.

Of the 1.5 million students throughout the United States who enter the program, only 7,500 ultimately are chosen. And the reward? A full-ride scholarship to the University of Florida.

“It was a long process that goes all the way back to when I took the PSAT a year-and-a-half ago,” Crowell said. “It was October of my junior year. We got our scores back in December or January that year, and I looked it up and found out I was within the range of being a semifinalist. Then, I learned I was a semifinalist last fall.”

From there, Crowell was tasked with penning an essay that described an experience that had a strong impact on her. She chose to write about her love of reading, which she developed after she lost her father to cancer.

“He died when I was in the fifth grade,” Crowell said. “Reading really helped me get through my father’s death and feelings of not fitting in. Even now, I still love getting into a book and getting lost in another world. It’s an escape.

“He battled cancer for four years,” she said. “But they (her parents) really guarded us (Crowell and her two sisters). Even when he was really sick or getting chemo, he attended my violin concerts; he was in the pool with us. We really had no idea how sick he was.”

Although Crowell said her dream school is the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, she has decided to take the full ride at UF.

“I’ll study biology as an undergrad, and for graduate school, I’ll go into law,” Crowell said. “I love history, and I love science, and environmental law seems like a good way to combine the two.

“I’ve loved Virginia ever since I visited Williamsburg in the eighth grade,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful there; the trees turn different colors. Money-wise, though, I pretty much have to go to UF, and I can do my graduate studies there (at UVA.).”

At WOHS, Crowell is a member of the National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society and this year is editor of the yearbook. She’s also active in her church, First Baptist Church Windermere, and volunteers at her former elementary school, Windermere Elementary.

In the final weeks of her high-school career, she knows there is plenty she will miss about WOHS.

“I’ll miss the teachers,” she said. “I didn’t realize until last semester how big of an impact they have had on my life. My yearbook adviser is like a second mom to me. I’ll also miss my best friends.”

And, although Crowell’s dad is no longer around to see her take this next step, she knows he played a critical role in preparing her for life.

“I miss the opportunities I could have had with him,” she said. “But I know I’ll see him again.” 

Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].


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