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UWF welcomes National Merit Finalist and other top scholars to campus

UWF and University President Martha Saunders welcomes and recognizes its National Merit Scholar and Pace Presidential Scholars for the 2021 school year.
Image submitted via UWF

The University of West Florida welcomed its tenth National Merit Finalist in five years this fall. Landon Nelson was among approximately 15,000 students across the country who met the requirements for Finalist standing, out of an estimated 1.5 million high school juniors who participated in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship competition. National Merit Finalists earn UWF’s top scholarship with a total value of more than $50,000, including full tuition, room and board, a $800-per-semester book stipend and a research or study abroad experience.


Nelson, a psychology major from Gulf Breeze, has a dream of being a neuroscientist. He chose UWF for a myriad of reasons.

“I chose UWF because it was made clear to me that everything that I could hope for in college was found on campus,” Nelson said. “It was incredibly reassuring to know that plenty of resources would be afforded to me to further my individual college experience. This of course includes the very comprehensive National Merit Finalist scholarship, which alleviates any financial worries for school. Coupled with a campus and locale that is both beautiful and close to home, it was a no-brainer that UWF would provide the most of all my options.”

The University also hosted its annual President’s Scholarship Competition, which awards top Florida-resident incoming freshmen who show potential to serve as future leaders with the institution’s most prestigious scholarship. The Pace Presidential Scholarship is offered in conjunction with Florida Bright Futures and covers on-campus room and board, tuition, a $800 book stipend and a research or study abroad experience, totaling more than $50,000.

The five students who were awarded the scholarship include:

    • Brayden Tompkins, legal studies major from Pace High School in Pace
    • Khuyen Tran, biomedical sciences major from Pensacola High School in Pensacola
    • Samantha Kammerer, mechanical engineering major from North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Lynn Haven
    • Emma Wagner, biology major from Niceville High School in Niceville

“Our top scholars impress us every year with their intellect and leadership skills,” said UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “Their unwavering dedication to education is awe-inspiring. We look forward to seeing them flourish at UWF.”

In 2019, the University established the Argo Spirit scholarship, a full-ride, competitive scholarship awarded to first-time-in-college freshmen who have shown strength of character, or “Argo Spirit.” Argo Spirit involves overcoming obstacles, fighting for something important and making an impact while in high school.

The five students who were awarded the scholarship in 2021 include:

    • Laylah Curran, history major from Escambia High School in Pensacola
    • Anthony Ballard, communication major from Discovery High School in Winter Haven
    • Lillian Hebert, marine biology major from Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach
    • Jerika Wisniewski Dent, pre-BSN major from Mariner High School in Cape Coral
    • Darien Gilbert, biomedical sciences major from Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola

“We can’t wait to welcome these new students and to support them as they thrive at UWF,” said Dr. Kim LeDuff, vice president for academic engagement and student affairs and chief diversity officer. “They were chosen because they have shown dedication, grit and resilience and I look forward to seeing how they will collaborate with faculty and staff as they achieve their academic and professional goals.”

For more information about the 2021 top scholars recipients, visit uwf.edu/topscholars. For more information on all undergraduate scholarship opportunities, visit uwf.edu/admissionsawards.