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Aquinas Academy's Jillian Mercer named National Geographic State Bee semifinalist

Tawnya Panizzi
| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 9:51 a.m.
Jillian Mercer, a student at Aquinas Academy in Gibsonia, has been named a Pennsylvania National Geographic state spelling bee semifinalist.
Jillian Mercer, a student at Aquinas Academy in Gibsonia, has been named a Pennsylvania National Geographic state spelling bee semifinalist.

Aquinas Academy eighth-grader Jillian Mercer has been named a Pennsylvania National Geographic State Bee semifinalist.

She will compete in the 2018 State Bee — for the third time — on April 6 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

Jillian, a resident of Richland, was the Aquinas school champion and qualified for the National Geographic Society contest as one of the 100 top-scoring students in the state.

The contest is designed to spark student interest in geography. At the school level, students answered questions like, “The Appalachian Mountains run through which state: Georgia or Mississippi?” and “The easternmost part on the Horn of Africa is located in which country?”

Cash prizes in this 30th anniversary of the State Bee have doubled to $200 for each state champion. They will also receive the National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World and a trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Bee from May 20-23.

The first-place winner there will get a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the society and an expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour ll.

Having won the school geography bees in 2015 and 2017, Jillian established herself as the only three-time Aquinas Academy National Geographic bee champion, Assistant School Head Mike Burchill said.

But geography isn't Jillian's only strength, Burchill said. She also took the initial test and has advanced to the regional competition on April 10 in Pittsburgh for the National History Bee.

Aquinas Academy is at 2308 W. Hardies Road, Gibsonia.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, or @tawnyatrib.

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