FOR MANY seniors, the fall and winter months of their final year of high school is spent applying for scholarships, filling out important documents such as the FAFSA, and working hard to make sure the credit requirements for graduation will be met. These tasks can be overwhelming and time-consuming for all students. A select group of seniors, however, take on yet another formidable project: the Sterling Scholars competition.
Founded in 1962 by reporters at The Deseret News, the Sterling Scholars program was designed to recognize and honor exceptional students throughout the Salt Lake Valley in 12 different categories. The categories vary, ranging from academic-oriented classes such as math, English, and science to categories of the arts, including dance, music, and visual arts.
“The purpose of the Sterling Scholars Awards is to publicly recognize and encourage the pursuit of excellence in scholarship, leadership, and citizenship of high school seniors in the state of Utah,” as stated on the program’s official sterlingscholar.org website.
Ms. Atkin, the Sterling Scholars coordinator at Granger, has been working with seniors for three years now, and she oversees the students as they go from applicants to official nominees from the school. “I really enjoy watching how creative the students get as they complete their portfolios. They’re all easy to work with, and it’s fun to watch them grow,” she said.
Natalya Maddocks (12) is the nominee for instrumental music at Granger and is very grateful to have been chosen. “I applied because I just really wanted to be able to say that I was a Sterling Scholar,” Maddocks said. She has been playing the cello for seven years, and she will have to perform for a group of judges when she participates in the regional interview required for all Sterling Scholar nominees.
The interview is one of the various steps these students must take in order to demonstrate their knowledge of their chosen subject and show their various achievements throughout high school.
Seniors from five different regions around the state and hundreds of different high schools spend their first months of senior year compiling a portfolio containing letters of recommendation, various essays, and anything that may impress judges and raise their chances of being chosen as their school’s, and eventually their region’s, nominee.
Kolby Smith (12), Granger’s Sterling Scholar for foreign language, has been dedicated to his category for years now. “I’ve actually been taking world language since seventh grade. I first started out with Mandarin Chinese, but when I came to Granger they didn’t offer that, so I made the switch to Japanese,” he said. “It’s really fun to be able to communicate with people in a very personal way. When you take it upon yourself to connect with them through their language, they’re able to open up more to you.”
These different talents not only make students diverse and interesting, but give them the perfect opportunity to become Sterling Scholar finalists and represent their school through their achievements. Granger’s twelve nominees are no doubt some of the best students as they do exactly that.