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Meet UWF’s National Merit Finalists

Photo left to right: [first row] Alana Davis, Julia Allgeyer, UWF President Martha D. Saunders, Aiden Black, [second row] Lucia Dillersberger, Kyra Parris, [third row] T'Yanna Williams, Bre Rayon, Lamb Ngafeeson

The University of West Florida welcomed its sixth class of National Merit Finalists this fall, for a total of 14 students since 2017. Julia Allgeyer, Aiden Black and Alana Davis were 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 2023 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.

“UWF has emerged as a first-choice University for high-achieving students from across the country,” said UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “Our top scholars appreciate UWF’s nationally-competitive academic programs taught by world-renowned professors. With a commitment to incorporating high-impact practices in every course and unmatched opportunities for undergraduate research, UWF offers these students an exemplary University experience.”

For Goshen, Ohio’s Julia Allgeyer, learning she had been named a National Merit Finalist meant her dreams of becoming a marine biologist were within reach.

“Being from Ohio, there are not a lot of schools that offer marine biology programs, and having my tuition covered gave me the push I needed to travel far from home,” Allgeyer said. “The ability to conduct independent research as a freshman was a priority for me, and UWF made it happen. I also appreciate the University’s smaller class sizes and the sincerity of its professors. Going to UWF means that I can study what I love hands-on.”

Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State graduate Alana Davis said being a scholarship recipient meant she would be able to treat college more like an adventure without the worry of accruing student debt.

“I desired to go to a small school that had more nature than concrete,” Davis said. “I liked how closely UWF is affiliated with Historic Pensacola and will take advantage of this as I plan for a career in archaeology and museum conservation. I am looking forward to UWF’s small class sizes and participating in the Kugelman Honors Program with other students who have the same outlook on college and studying as I do.”

The combination of a state-of-the-art cybersecurity program and plentiful undergraduate research opportunities made UWF an easy first choice for Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State graduate Aiden Black.

“UWF offered me everything that I could want from an undergraduate degree program,” Black said. “The campus is beautiful with nature trails, a highly developed student fitness center, well-maintained student housing and an active student life. I’ve already been paired with Dr. Guillermo Francia to learn more about cybersecurity research in my first year of enrollment, and I can already tell I will enjoy working with him and learn a lot from the experience.”

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. This 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.

Five students were awarded the Pace Presidential Scholarship in 2023 including:

  • Lucia Dillersberger, environmental science major from Citrus High School in Lecanto
  • Lamb Ngafeeson, psychology major from Port St. Lucie High School
  • Kyra Parris, design and technology major from Belleview High School in Ocala
  • Bre Rayon, business major from Navarre High School
  • T’Yanna Williams, biomedical sciences major from Bay High School in Panama City

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 2023 Argo Spirit Scholarship recipients are:

  • Rachel Ebbighausen, exercise science major from Milton High School
  • Cassidy Hinkle, business major from Riverview High School in Sarasota
  • Tobi Mcmains, from Pace High School
  • Jordan Miley-Dingler, construction management major from Lakeland Christian School
  • Jajuan Smith, engineering technology major from Belleview High School in Ocala

For more information about UWF’s 2023 top scholars, visit uwf.edu/topscholars. For more information on undergraduate scholarship opportunities, visit uwf.edu/admissionsawards.