Meet Our National Merit Semifinalists

Several weeks ago, three of our Senior students of the Class of 2021 were named as National Merit Semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Program. The students who received such honor are Ricardo Marrero, Paola Rodriguez and Diego Saavedra. To be named as a National Merit Semifinalist, the student must take the PSAT/NMSQT (which is administered to all Juniors) and score on the top 1% of their state or territory. This is not an easy feat. At Saint John’s School, we feel most proud about their accomplishment and congratulate them and their families for the honor received.  

We had a chance to chat online with them about this recognition and would like to share some of their statements regarding being selected as a National Merit Semifinalist. First, we were curious about their initial reaction: for Ricardo, it was a reward to the importance of perseverance and having a mindset that looks into the future. He also sees it as the result of focused mental fortitude. For Paola, it was a vivid reminder that hard work pays off. She believes that it was challenging to be disciplined about incorporating test taking practices into her routines, which include studying for the rigorous classes she takes at school and the time she dedicates to her sport, running. For Diego, it was the combination of transferring skills from sports and the education received at Saint John’s School what put him on the winning path. He credits the discipline developed as an athlete and his strong desire to do well as the foundation of his success on the program. 

We had to ask them: What motivates you? What drives you? Their answers largely reflect their personalities. For Diego, it was important to do well because he wants to get into a good college or university where he can play golf. He also mentioned that he was motivated by Paola and Ricardo, too. Even though the results are individual, the three of them saw the process as more teamwork than competition. Paola gets her motivation from an innate focus on goals, and she celebrated her “smalls wins” by doing plenty of practice tests. For Ricardo, self-reflection and self-incentivization were the source of motivation and drive.  

We asked them to elaborate more on these points and share any special advice with younger students. Ricardo was quick to point out, “It’s not a fun process, but you can enjoy it. You should understand and recognize the value of rewarding yourself as you prepare for the test.” (Ricardo’s reward was a rather simple one: ice cream from a nearby store!!) Paola’s advice is, “Choose one thing (a class, an art, a sport) that you are passionate about and really focus on that. Believe me when I say this will start to spill into the other areas of your life as well.” Following in the line of simple advice, Diego’s advice is, “Do what you love. Stick to what you love and have fun trying to outdo yourself.” 

Our chat was not complete until our three SJS National Merit Semifinalists shared a special message with the school community.  

Diego: “Thank you to all the teachers and parents. I can’t wait to see you all in person to thank you directly.” 

Paola: “I would like to thank the teachers at SJS for helping me grow as a student. I owe this whole achievement to them because they made me the student I am today. I would also like to thank my parents for believing that I could do this and supporting me every step of the way.” 

Ricardo: “I want to thank my teachers and parents for challenging me and encouraging me to take an extra step and work harder.” 

What more can we say? We are proud of Ricardo, Paola and Diego, and congratulate them and their families again. Thank you for bringing honor to Saint John's School!


Saint John’s School

Saint John’s School is a non-profit, college preparatory, nonsectarian, coeducational day school founded in 1915. The school, located in a residential area of Condado, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has an enrollment of over 800 students from pre pre-kinder to grade twelve. Instruction is mostly in English with the exception of language courses.