Intel and the Society for Science released their list of the semi-finalists in this year's Intel Science Talent Search. You can read the list of 300 students here.
While the list of students who have done amazing independent scientific research projects is long, the list of schools they attend is much, much shorter. Scroll down, and you'll see the Texas Academy of Math and Science, the North Carolina School of Science and Math, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and a few other stand-outs listed again and again.
What's happened is that a few schools have institutional research programs that give kids the time and the mentoring to actually conduct interesting, meaningful experiments. While it is certainly possible to find your own mentor at a university near your home, or even come up with your own experiments you can do at your kitchen table, a research program makes it that much easier for kids with scientific aptitude to test and stretch themselves.
I would love to see more schools putting serious research programs in place as an option for kids who want a project in high school. Hopefully the cash a semi-finalist designation earns will, over time, convince more schools to give it a try.