FLORIDA KEYS -- Two local high school seniors will be heading to the University of Florida this fall as National Merit Scholars.
Gabriel Roberts, 18, of Coral Shores High School and Marina Kay Wiatt, 18, of Marathon High are among the 2.9 million students recognized by the 57-year-old non-profit organization.
They are the only Monroe County students selected for the scholarship which pays full tuition for four years. Both will graduate with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.
Roberts, who says he is a lifelong Gator fan, said he plans to major in business and sports management.
"After I graduate it's law school. My goal now is to be a sports agent," said the Tavernier resident whose weighted GPA is actually 4.6.
Roberts attended the Treasure Village Montessori Charter School through fifth grade before transferring for grades six through eight to Plantation Key School, where his mother, Donna Roberts, teaches.
"I never had Mom as a teacher," he said, referring to his classroom experience. "But my parents have always supported me in anything I've done, and I appreciate that."
Roberts points to English teacher Jonathan Ellsworth as his scholastic mentor.
"He has helped me be the student I am in school and also the person I am outside of school," he said.
Roberts said his toughest subjects in high school were as a freshman in Ellsworth's English honors class and in Advanced Placement calculus.
"That was one of the hardest classes I ever had," he said.
Marathon's Marina Kay Wiatt is graduating with a 4.65 weighted GPA. She also earned the UF Lombardi Scholarship, named for former UF President John V. Lombardi.
UF Honors Program Associate Director John Denny said Wiatt is one of only eight students who were awarded the Lombardi Scholarship.
"Her stipend is worth over $20,000 over the four years at UF," he said.
As part of the international education aspect of the Lombardi Scholarship, Wiatt will spend this summer in Mexico attending classes at a college in Merida in the Yucatan, where she expects to hone her Spanish language skills.
"She will be staying with a Mexican family and taking courses in anthropology and ecology," Denny added.
Wiatt lettered in three sports at Marathon High -- cross country, soccer and tennis -- but she said she would only play intramural sports at UF so she can focus on her studies.
"I will major in biological engineering while trying to get into the new UF biomedical program," she said. "I am not certain what I will do after that other than possibly attending Duke [University in Durham, N.C.] for graduate school."
Katrina Wiatt, Marina Kay's mother, said her daughter set being a National Merit Scholar as one of her goals.
"She studied and worked hard for this and Bill and I are so proud of her," she said, referring to Wiatt's father.
Marina Kay Wiatt offered some advice for younger students with aspirations for a full college scholarship.
"It's important for students to remember that everything you do counts," she said. "The history course you take as a freshman counts the same as the physics course you take as a senior. I would urge students to have their sights set on college from the beginning and start early."