“It’s spectacular,” Nicole Bedera, 17, said.
Bedera is the first National Merit Scholar semifinalist at Spanish Springs High School.
“I’m both proud and excited for my sister,” said sibling Bryan Bedera.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation was founded in 1955, according to its Web site. The program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
“It was required in my (Advanced Placement) English class,” Bedera said about taking the PSATs. “I was going to do it anyway. Our career counselor came in and we were all joking in the back row about being National Merit Scholars. We figured we might as well take it – there’s no reason not to – then it turned out I scored really well and our joke became a little bit more serious.”
As a senior, Bedera is considering her choices for college.
“It has opened a lot of doors,” Bedera said. “I am getting attention from Ivy League schools. Before I found out that my score was that high I was thinking of going to (the University of Nevada, Reno), studying abroad, maybe transferring, but now Columbia is my top pick. If I don’t get in early admission there, I’m going to apply to NYU and Harvard.”
While it has provided more opportunities for her, it hasn’t been easy. Bedera studies between two and three hours every night.
But all of the studying is paying off; she had a weighted GPA of 4.39.
Not only does she excel at her classes, she also participates in different school activities. Bedera is in the wind ensemble and marching band. She plays the clarinet, bass clarinet and has recently taken up the E-flat clarinet. She is also the assistant director for the school play and will be on the science bowl team.
“I realized that if I’m not really busy,” Bedera said. “I have a tendency to let things go a little bit. Keeping busy really does provide a strong work ethic.”
Bedera considers herself a gay rights activist. As a freshman, she founded the Gay-Straight Alliance summit at her school with a friend. She is currently the president of the GSA at her school. Her favorite thing, though, she said, is a podcast that she does called Gen Q. It focuses on issues of the young gay community.
She also helped found the new GLSEN chapter of the Northern Nevada Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
“Nicole identified the need for GLSEN in this area got it three-quarters of the way together,” brother Bryan said. “She did all the ground work by herself.”
“If you take Erin Brockovich, Gandhi and Bill Gates and put them all into one person,” said Jaime Bowers, AP English teacher, "that’s her in the making. She’s not just compassionate, she’s bold, she’s courageous and she’s driven.”