She’s the best from Thurston County - and has a National Merit scholarship to prove it

Julia Gavigan of Olympia is one of 7,500 students from across the nation — and the only Thurston County student — to be awarded a college-sponsored National Merit Scholarship.

“Receiving a National Merit scholarship was really exciting,” Gavigan told The Olympian via Facebook. “Academics have always been my strong point, and it was nice to be recognized for one of my biggest strengths.”

Gavigan graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma and plans to study chemistry at Whitman College in Walla Walla. She said she is interested in their biochemistry, biophysics and microbiology programs.

“When I visited (Whitman), the environment felt right for me,” she wrote. “I immediately felt comfortable on the campus, and it was the type of small liberal arts school I was looking for.”

During high school, Gavigan was a member of Model United Nations, and participated in theater and knowledge bowl.

Gavigan competed against more than 1.5 million students from 22,000 U.S. high schools for the scholarship. Her scores on the Preliminary SAT entered her into the initial pool of applicants for the award. One percent of seniors nationwide became semifinalists last fall, and now half of those students — including Gavigan — have been awarded scholarships.