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Sterling scholars

General scholarship


Richard Wells

Woods Cross High School

Parents: Keith and Christine Wells


"As the oldest child in a family with an insulin-dependent mother, I am often responsible for my brother and sister while she is recovering from her low blood sugar. I became interested in how insulin, blood monitors and insulin pumps work. I see how science has made my mom's life better. Because of my mother's condition, I have taken the opportunity to study insulin and diabetes.

"As I learn more about one area of science, such as insulin, I become interested in other areas. Each new discovery leads to something else I would like to study. I've enrolled in many science classes to help me satisfy my insatiable curiosity in the area of science. I have had some wonderful teachers who have noticed my interest in science and then nurtured it. My love for science has lead to some real opportunities.

"Balance is a good way to characterize my life. Managing and prioritizing my time has helped me to maintain this balance. Rather than focusing my life on one or two things, I have been able to be involved in many worthwhile activities. I rarely waste time.

"To me, science is logical and sensible. You follow step-by-step procedures and then reach a logical conclusion. I am very meticulous and pay great attention to detail. Discovering something through the scientific approach is very rewarding and exciting to me. I have a strong desire to continue learning in the scientific field.

"I am excited about the accomplishments that I have made in science. At the present time I am focusing on a profession in the field of science, particularly in the field of chemical engineering. The coming years promise to be an exciting time in this field. As a chemical engineer, it is my goal to enrich the lives of others as much as my life has benefited from science."

SCHOLARSHIP: 4.0 GPA. 33 composite ACT. Ranks first out of 400.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Honor Society; Eagle Scout with five palms; Henry B. Eyring Analytical Chemistry scholar; American Chemical Society Chemistry Olympiad; Chemistry Student of the Year; school Web master.


Paul Felt

Ogden High School

Parents: Douglas P. and Shelley L. Felt


"Books have always been a survival tool for me. To a great extent, I relate to life and people through literature and the characters in it. This is not to imply that I live life through books or that I believe everything I read, but as I've struggled to learn about the world and people in it — their circumstances, reactions, relations — I have used books as a starting place. It is easier to test theories than to create them, so it makes sense to learn what others have found before deciding what I think about life.

"Writing is a way of clarifying my thoughts. When I write something down — a character, an ethical stand, a landscape — I am forced to gather my thoughts and make decisions regarding each sentence I form, its meaning and implication, how it relates to the sentences around it and to the entire piece. Invariably when I am done I know more about myself and what I think than I did before. I will always read — disrespectfully when necessary — and though writing has always been more difficult, I plan to keep my life difficult . . . therefore interesting.

"Good writing gives old ideas encouragement to grow."

SCHOLASTIC: Ranks first out of 333. Current and overall GPA is 4.0. 33 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: First place in English at Utah State's annual Academic Olympiad; Eagle Scout; president and founder Juggling Club; National Merit Scholar semi-finalist; certified clinical lab technician; assistant Scoutmaster.


Amanda Ellis

Brighton High School

Parents: Dean and Erika Ellis

Salt Lake City

"Since I was very little I have had a powerful curiosity about anything and everything in the world around me. I am fascinated by mathematical theories, principles of physics and themes of literature. It is this desire for comprehension that gets me through hours of homework. Tedious and confusing assignments can be tolerated when complete understanding lies in the near future. It may be strange, but understanding the reasoning and usage of partial derivatives can really get me through the day. To me, the greatest achievement is learning, whether in my multi-variable calculus class every morning or in my guitar practice every afternoon.

"My involvement with mathematics has already enriched my life in so many ways, and I have no doubt that in the future the advantages will only increase. The analytical skills that I have developed through the years I have spent studying and tutoring math are becoming more and more important in the way I manage my life outside of academics. Problem-solving skills and analytical reasoning help me every single day in many instances. Problems that at first seem unsolvable can be solved by a step-by-step process and creative thinking."

SCHOLARSHIP: Cumulative GPA is 3.992. 33 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Merit Scholar Award; Who's Who for High School students two years in a row; two-time winner of the State Math Contest; recipient of Academic Letter awards; American Regional Mathematics League.

Social science

Mikel Gajkowski

Skyline High School

Parents: Mark and Jusdean Gajkowski

Salt Lake City

"My enthusiasm for social science has benefited my life greatly. History, I have learned, is not a faceless chronology of events, but rather, the very key to civilization. I remember a quote engraved on a statue in Washington — "What is past is prologue." My interest in social science is mirrored not only in my enthusiasm for history but in my future career ambitions in broadcast journalism, the modern field of social science. I have an unquenchable desire to change and affect society on a grand scale, and I know that as I further enrich my life with an appreciation of history, I can turn thoughts and ideas of the past into solutions for the present and future. Through my study of the social sciences in journalism, I will be able to relate world and current events into issues and bring those issues to the public light in order to bring about change.

"One of my greatest convictions and compassions is for the prevention of sexual abuse: one of the most unrecognized yet most grave of all social problems in America today. My greatest efforts in service are stemmed from my passion against sexual crimes — particularly sexual abuse in children."

SCHOLARSHIP: GPA is 3.854. Ranks 86 out of 599.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Champion "Oral History" in National History Fair, Washington, D.C., "Chosen Frozen"; National History Fair finalist; grand champion, Utah History Fair, "Little Rock Nine"; first place Utah State Debate, Champion Congress and Oratorical Declamation; two-year service to elementary schools, Battered Women's Shelter and Salt Lake City Rape Recovery Center.

Foreign language

Benjamin Blaylock

Orem High School

Parents: James and Nancy Blaylock


"My involvement in foreign languages has made me open-minded. I no longer see life from one point of view but in multidimensional perspectives. What was once just a two-sided photograph is now a detailed event in a certain time and place. I have a depth perception to see into human personalities and appreciate all individuals and to learn from them. We can learn something from every person. It is just a matter of learning how to see what that something is. I love comparing and contrasting different cultures. Language is more than just words. It is a way of communicating that brings culture along with it. Due to experiences that I have had, I have found direction for my future path of education. I want to continue to study not only languages but cultures. I applied and was recently accepted for a program to study in Jerusalem this summer. I plan on learning about Middle Eastern religions and the people's way of life.

"I have a passion for meeting new people, especially those from different backgrounds than myself. I am very outgoing but have not always been that way. Being in a foreign country changed how I view other people."

SCHOLARSHIP: 4.0 GPA. Ranks first out of 548.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: Eagle Scout; We the People Constitution competition team for 2001; organized discussion groups for the 2000 presidential debates and election; member of Orem High School Key Club; Honors in Excellence; foreign exchange student to Germany; intensive language camp in Adenau, Germany; organized activities for foreign exchange students.

Computer technology

David Muhlestein

Woods Cross High School

Parents: Brent and Elaine Muhlestein


"One of my greatest strengths is my wide range of interests. I am involved in numerous activities, both academic and extracurricular in nature. I have enjoyed activities from hiking and hunting to playing chess with my friends. I have had the opportunity to travel to many lands. I have been to Third World countries. I have talked with Chinese scientists about their use of computers. I have watched my father's colleagues use computers in their work and have gained a greater understanding of the potential uses of this technology. This has made me strive to develop useful and enjoyable computer applications.

"Although I have been very fortunate throughout my life in relationship to health and opportunities, I have had some challenges that have helped me to grow. Although most of these have been self-imposed, they have still strengthened my personal character. I have learned enough about myself to know that I will work diligently to overcome any obstacle no matter how daunting."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.985 GPA. Ranks 15 out of 398. 33 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: Eagle Scout; National Honor Society; Outstanding Academic Performance; Academic Olympiad; helped organize Sub-for-Santa program for Neighborhood House; Chess Club president; received a full-ride four-year engineering scholarship; Science Olympiad; National Junior Honor Society.

Trade and technical education

Jennifer Swenson

Payson High School

Parents: Carl and Nancy Swenson


"I am interested and involved in many diverse subjects. I have always had a love and an interest for agriculture. Raising animals for stock shows, taking agriculture classes, owning my own produce business and the various FFA activities I have been involved in have increased my knowledge and love for agriculture. I have a strong interest in computers and graphic design. Through classes and on my own, I have learned to use the computer to make signs, posters, Web pages, advertisements and many other items. I am always striving to learn more about computers and technology.

"Oftentimes the technology and agricultural fields are thought of as male-dominated. Because of my interest in this category, I have ignored that fact and have become involved. In several of my computer classes I have been the only, or one of the few girls in the class. This has served as a motivator for me, as I have wanted to keep up with and even exceed what the boys are doing. Although technology is thought to be a male occupation, it is fun to be actively involved, as more girls are becoming interested."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.996 GPA. Ranks 6 out of 407.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: State FFA Creed speaking winner; Info Processing certificate of completion; own and operate a produce business; UVSC Crystal Eagle Award; National Honor Society; Academic All-State.

Family and consumer sciences

Lacey Bascom

Provo High School

Parents: Roger and Brooke Bascom


"I completed a STAR event that focused on blind children. I helped to make 50 tactile quilts for blind schools all over Utah. Each quilt is composed of 10 matching pairs of different material for the child to feel and match. There is a pocket on each quilt with a squeaky toy for the child to find. The back of the quilt is black so someone can place an object on the back to see if the child can use what vision he or she has to pick the object up. I learned all of the steps necessary to complete the quilts. I was able to understand more about the blind children and how they learn. I gained the skills needed to communicate between the program, organizers, teachers and students to plan, organize and complete the project. I enjoyed this project because I was able to learn more about different people. I was able to help these children by providing a tool that will help them prepare for their future lives in a seeing world. When I was able to see the children discover these quilts with their hands, I knew all the work was worth it.

"I have gained from every person I have worked with and learned how to compromise among everyone's ideas to come to a final solution."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.969 GPA. Ranks 17 out of 413. 27 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Honor Society; Outstanding Achievement in Principles of Technology Award; Utah State Office of Education skills certification — American Sign Language; Award of Excellence in pre-calculus; Award of Excellence in algebra.

Business & marketing

Jonathan Liljegren

Mountain View High School

Parents: Fred and Linda Liljegren


"Marketing has taught me the importance of human relations and relationships and has taught me how to create lasting bonds with customers, employers and associates. It has taught me the value of having a strong network of people to support you and help you move on.

"The field of business provides me an opportunity to exercise my leadership skills and provides rewards for this ability. Business management and entrepreneurship are the fields that I am most interested in because they will enhance my leadership abilities as well as provide me with a solid base of information that will help me succeed in business.

"The most important ability that I have is that of leadership. I have not always been the one to want to take the lead. I became a leader by investing my time in programs and activities that not only teach leadership but also allow you to apply it in many practical ways."

SCHOLARSHIP: 4.0 GPA. Ranks first out of 510. 30 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: Future Business Leaders of America Award; Eagle Scout; Boys State; National Honor Society; Utah Skills Certification; President's Education Awards Program for Outstanding Academic Achievement; Utah Valley Entrepreneurship Forum's Youth Entrepreneurial Scholarship.


Benjamin Kirk Lusty

Taylorsville High School

Parents: Kirk and Kaydon Lusty


"Perhaps the accomplishment of which I am most proud is my membership in the National Forensic League. While pursuing my membership in the National Forensic League, I have competed in more than 30 debate tournaments. My debate competition has taught me organization, analytical and leadership skills. Organization is essential for the communication of coherent thought. When information is not presented in an orderly style, the savor of the argument is lost. Analytical skills are paramount for successful debate competition. In debate, the mind stretches and develops analytical skill by answering difficult questions.

"My involvement in speech and debate will enrich my life in several ways. It has helped me to develop confidence in myself and abilities. This confidence is essential to a successful career in public service, military service and private enterprise.

"Speech and debate have also improved my analytical and thinking skills. Without my debate training, I would not have been able to improve the way I think. The benefit to my analytical thinking skills illuminates itself with the improvement of my writing."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.804 GPA. Ranks 89 out of 660. 30 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: 5A Lincoln-Douglas state champion; Degree of Superior Distinction in the National Forensic League; Debate Outstanding Departmental Scholar; National Honor Society; Outstanding Speaker at the 2001 Hunter Round Robin; qualifier and participant in the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament.

Visual arts

Steven A. Morrison

Timpview High School

Parents: Tim and Carol Morrison


"Art is my passion. Studying and creating art allows me to learn more about the world and myself. It provides a voice for expressing my thoughts and opinions. However, for the experience to be as meaningful as possible, the artist must be disciplined. I keep up with assignments and work at a project until it is the way I want it. During each school year I have completed one work of art weekly outside the classroom, following a consistent theme. The discipline I have learned in art has helped me improve in other areas of life, including academic areas.

"Art, unlike a more practical field, enriches people spiritually rather than physically. The arts communicate ideas more powerfully than anything else. Creating art allows me to share myself with others and to clearly convey my thoughts. Art can uplift and teach. Through the arts, I have gained a greater understanding of what life is and how best to live it. I plan to use my talents and education to help others. I want to illustrate children's books. I hope my books will help children understand the tremendous potential they have for good."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.9 GPA. Ranks 31 out of 438.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: Eagle Scout; National Merit Scholar semi-finalist; philharmonic and pit orchestras; English academic letter; music academic letter; visual arts academic letter; collected food for needy; painted an orphanage in Mexico; participated in community cleanup.


Barney Lund

Woods Cross High School

Parents: Gary and M'Jean Lund


"I am a people person. As a performer, one has to be and learns to be social. Working in ensembles really has helped me, not only in the concept of teamwork, but also in diplomacy and congeniality. I love to learn about people and try to benefit others' lives in any way I can. I have had great examples in this area, including family members and relatives. I am easy to get along with, which in a musical setting is a great asset when a hard goal must be achieved through the work and effort of many people.

"I am dedicated to organizations and have been able to prioritize my time. Being in so many ensembles, clubs, groups, etc., I have also had to manage my time and schedule precisely and well ahead of time to make ends meet. I am a dedicated worker when it comes to music and academics. I cannot reach perfection, but it is always my goal. When dissatisfied with my own performance, I look back to see what I could have done better and look ahead to see what I can do better in the future. I have a love and respect for music and am constantly attempting to consume more and more of it. Mediocrity, however, is not acceptable in my view, and I hope to accomplish everything I do, especially in music, with a good feeling about it."

SCHOLARSHIP: 3.992 GPA. Ranks 8 out of 398. 30 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Honor Society; Math Student of the Year Award; Award of Excellence for Distinguished Personal Performance in Academic Achievement; Presidential Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement; soloist, Utah Symphony Youth Guild recital and awards banquet; featured in family performances with Salt Lake Symphony, Murray Symphony and Granite Youth Symphony.


Kelby Debenham

Mountain View High School

Parents: Pat and Kathie Debenham


"I was born into a family where you danced instead of walked, where you ate squash instead of Kraft macaroni and cheese, where creativity was celebrated and encouraged, education was valued and responsibility for yourself was assumed at a young age. My family life has been a unique one, especially having parents who are dance educators and performing artists. I know that my parents' influence and support have led to my appreciation for dance as an art. Because of my parents' profession I have encountered many interesting and diverse ideas and people throughout my life. This exposure has helped me gain respect and appreciation for those that differ from me.

"Dance has enriched my life in many ways already. I see life as a dance. In the dance of life, I can decide which type of 'dance' I wish to create and what movements or ideas I wish to include in it. The dance of life gives me the opportunity and challenge of making plans and choices. However, plans can change, and sometimes I must find new ways to accomplish what I set out to do. In dance as well as life, I have to learn to adapt and to consider other people's way of doing things."

SCHOLARSHIP: 4.0 GPA. Ranks first out of 517. 29 composite ACT.

AWARDS AND PROJECTS: National Honor Society; Girls State; Orchesis Dance Company member; Orchesis Most Promising Underclassman; member of BYU Young DanceMakers; student intern at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

Douglas F. Bates Community Service Award

Britnie Anderson

Murray High School

Parents: Gordon and Wendy Anderson


Britnie Anderson is this year's recipient of the Douglas F. Bates Community Service Award. The family and consumer science Sterling Scholar is from Murray High School. Anderson is not only an outstanding scholar with a 4.0 GPA and a 24 composite ACT score, but she has also gone the extra mile in providing exemplary community service.

Anderson has spent time in Guatemala teaching and taking care of the village children. She taught first-graders every other day teaching them about colors, geography, math, crafts and chemistry. She notes that the language barrier was more of a problem in Guatemala than in Kenya, where she also spent some time. In Guatamala, she had to go through two translators because they only spoke their tribal language. Communication is through body language, simple hand gestures, beckoning eyes and a smile, Anderson says.

Anderson also has volunteered to assist battered women locally, helping serve Thanksgiving dinner to them and their families, making quilts for boys at Primary Children's Hospital and working with underprivileged children.

THE AWARD: Named for the late Douglas F. Bates, Utah State Office of Education legal counsel and former associate superintendent, who exemplified outstanding community service. In addition to a trophy, a check for $100 was presented courtesy of the Deseret News and KSL Television.

Philo T. Farnsworth Award

Janssen Vanderhooft

Brighton High School

Parents: Jan and Louise Vanderhooft

Salt Lake City

In Vanderhooft's own words, "I believe that curiosity is the driving force behind all scientists, whether professional, academic or just leisure because true curiosity is the desire to always learn more."

Vanderhooft has done a research project on the concentration of digoxin in foxglove leaves. He learned more than simply the chemical and biological properties of digoxin and the methods that can be used to extract it and measure its quantity. The most important lesson learned was the value of identifying problems early in the research process and finding scientific ways to overcome those obstacles. All of the procedures were delicate and needed to be performed with precision to be able to present accurate results.

Vanderhooft believes that through science he can help people and hopefully make their lives better because of the pioneering research in curing diseases.

Vanderhooft carries a 3.993 GPA and ranks 12th out of 721 in his graduating class. He has a 31 composite on his ACT.

THE AWARD: This award is given jointly by the Governor's Office and the Deseret News/KSL Television to an outstanding Sterling Scholar in science. Named after the father of television, Utah's own Philo T. Farnsworth, the award includes a statuette of Farnsworth that is a replica of the "heroic-size" statue in the U.S. Capitol as well as in the Utah Capitol. The award also includes $100 from the Deseret News and KSL Television.