MILTON — Among the National Merit Scholarship program’s 15,000 finalists, three hail from Santa Rosa County.

Specifically, they are Diana Hanks and Christia Victoriano of Pace High School, and Michaele “Shelby” Dunne of Gulf Breeze High School.

Students who win the scholarship will receive funds from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a not-for-profit organization. The amount of each scholarship depends on each student’s college of choice.

Here, we learn about each finalist and her goals.


Christia, a Pace High School senior, is one of the editors in chief of the yearbook staff and a member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club. She has been on the varsity soccer and varsity track teams all four years.

She plans to study mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University.

As for her dream career?

“Right now, I’m interested in working in global development engineering,” Christia said.

During her summers, Christia has volunteered at the Pensacola MESS Hall and Pensacola Museum of Art. She works as a catering server at Nancy’s Catering and Events.

Christia also is something of an entrepreneur; she has her own graphic design business, where she sells holiday cards and graduation announcements.

In September, Christia received a letter from the National Merit program saying she had become a semifinalist for the award.  She then completed an application with an essay and letters of recommendation, and took the SAT.

She received a letter in February saying she had become a finalist.


Shelby, a Gulf Breeze High School senior, is the school newspaper’s editor in chief, president of the local National Honor Society chapter and vice president of Mu Alpha Theta.

In addition, she plays on the school’s lacrosse team, is captain of the cross-country team and dances.

Shelby received a Navy ROTC scholarship and plans to study environmental engineering at Cornell University.

“Though it's far-fetched and the odds are very small, I've never gotten over the childish dream of being an astronaut,” she said. “I hope to go to the ISS (International Space Station) or be on the frontier of Mars exploration.”

In her — scarce — free time, Shelby said she enjoys running, cooking, baking and reading.

Shelby took the PSAT the fall of her junior year, and learned she became a National Merit semifinalist a year later.

She then completed an application process that she said was “essentially the same as the ones [she] had already filled out for colleges” and learned she became a finalist.


Diana, a Pace High School senior, takes classes full time at the University of West Florida.

She does tumbling at Salute Gymnastics Academy, plays the piano and enjoys drawing.

Diana dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer, due to her love of math and science. She said her uncle was one of the first aerospace engineers, and she finds it fascinating.

She plans to attend UWF for her undergraduate degree.

Diana applied for the National Merit Scholarship after receiving a high PSAT score. She became a semifinalist, and then applied for a finalist position with a second application and a high SAT score.

None of it would be possible without guidance along the way, according to the teenager.

“I’m very thankful to my parents and all my teachers for helping me with my education and helping me get where I am today,” Diana said.