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Splendid Sterling Scholar winners

Mick Hagen has been in business for a month and is already seeing dollar signs — from an unexpected source.

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2003 Sterling Scholar winners list

The Provo High senior, who captains the varsity basketball and chess teams, is creating an online literary journal for Provo teens and recently began selling ads to solidify the venture.

Now the young photographer and graphic designer has created a secondary revenue stream with his dazzling of Sterling Scholar judges, receiving Sterling Scholar honors in computer technology and a $1,000 check that goes with it. He was also awarded a $1,500 check for the general scholarship award, which recognizes the most polished of students in the Sterling Scholars awards program.

"It's a complete shock," said the son of Dave and Annabella Hagen of the honors Wednesday night. "I don't know how they can judge from such amazing people."

Students selected for 2003 Sterling Scholars honors indeed do truely shine.

They travel the world to serve the poor. They have won national awards and scholarships and international performance opportunities. Some have bent gender norms in male-dominated fields.

"It all started in metal shop, where I was the only girl. And I thought, 'You know what? I like being in a guy field,' " said science Sterling Scholar Rebecca Parker, a Kearns High senior who was flanked by two female runners-up — Claire Elayne Bangerter of American Fork High and Charm Tang of Brighton High — in her category.

"I love animals, I love chemicals, I love to set things on fire — not houses or anything, though," said Parker, adding she hopes her brothers will follow in her scientific footsteps. "This is a great award for me, definitely."

In all, 13 students from Cache to Utah counties received Sterling Scholar honors in as many categories, ranging from foreign language to trade and technical education. Twenty-six runners-up — two in each category — also were honored for their exceptional talents and expertise.

Two other students also received special honors.

Logan High senior Katie Clarke received The Douglas F. Bates Community Service Award, named after the late child advocate and state school law and legislation director.

And Weber High senior Jordan Cox received the Philo T. Farnsworth Governor's Award, which honors student innovations in the spirit of the Utah-born father of television.

Winners were selected from a group 195 finalists. In all, 676 of Utah's top students were nominated for the honors by high school teachers and leaders.

Sterling scholar winners, who come from Alpine, Davis, Granite, Logan, Jordan, Provo, Salt Lake City and Weber school districts, receive $1,000 apiece. Runners-up take home $250.

The money can be spent as the students please. But most plan to invest it in their future. After all, "education is expensive," English Sterling Scholar and Highland High senior Jonathan McKean said.

Sterling Scholars is a program patterned after that of a Florida newspaper. It blossomed in Utah in 1962, under former Deseret News education editor Lavor K. Chaffin.

"I think it's a good program because it recognizes students . . . and the talent in the state of Utah," said Speech/Drama Sterling Scholar Trevor Wright, Lone Peak High's student body president. "It's about time someone honor academics equally with athletics."

Sterling Scholars, sponsored by the Deseret News and KSL-TV, has grown in prestige since, opening doors to additional scholarships at colleges and universities in Utah and Idaho.

Students often eye their opportunity in the Sterling spotlight years in advance.

"My grandma said, 'I look forward to seeing your picture in the paper' " under the Sterling Scholar banner, business and marketing winner Daniel Harbuck recalls.

"My dad and I started talking about doing this in the seventh grade," added Family and Consumer Sciences Sterling Scholar Brooke Christensen.

Indeed, Sterling Scholars' rsums culminate a student's lifetime of achievements.

Math Sterling Scholar Morgan Dennis, for example, is first in his class at Alta High school and achieved perfect scores on the math portions of the American College Test and Scholastic Aptitude Test. He has attended the Mathematical Olympiad summer program at the University of Nebraska and was hired to write math problems for academic decathlon study materials.

Sterling Scholars also post achievements beyond academics, and are well-rounded students.

Dance Sterling Scholar Annie Layton of Viewmont High has received All-Region and All-State drill team honors, serves on the Governor's Youth Council, is a published poet, and won a best of radio award in the Truth For Youth anti-tobacco contest.

Sterling Scholars also have extensive community service experience.

Brighton High senior Ann Garbett, honored as foreign language Sterling Scholar, has traveled to Mexico, delivering school supplies and arranging scholarships for village students. She was a volunteer Spanish translator during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and she tutors Spanish-speaking students in geometry lessons.

These students also are leaders.

J. Chase Parry, a Fremont High senior and Sterling Scholar in trade and technical education, has received the Hugh O'Brien Leadership Award. He's a member of the National Honor Society and Key Club, is captain of the track and varsity football teams, writes for the school newspaper and has achieved Eagle Scout honors.

Sterling Scholar candidates are asked to detail such accomplishments in an extensive portfolio. They also interview and perform before judging panels, some of which have included local celebrities such as musician Kurt Bestor.

For some, the competition is a family — and friend — affair.

Christensen's brother, for instance, was a Sterling Scholar finalist last year in trade and technology.

And McKean's brother was a 2001 runner-up in the English category — an apparent family forte.

McKean has other company in the Sterling Scholars circle.

Childhood friend, Highland High classmate and fellow student body officer Parker Hill won in the social science category. The two grew up in the same neighborhood, were in the same Scout troop and played Junior Jazz basketball together.

Four other top honorees also are classmates.

Meghana Khandekar, visual arts Sterling Scholar, received a hearty congratulations from Harbuck, with whom she attends West High School's International Baccalaureate program.

Wright had the opportunity to do the same for Lone Peak classmate Jennifer Jackson, a violist has displayed her talents on a global stage with the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra and who now adds music Sterling Scholar to her accolades.

It's nice to find friendly faces in the climb to Sterling Scholar success, a highly competitive and at times stressful experience.

Khandekar, for instance, didn't think her 3.75 GPA would be enough to secure a Sterling Scholar title.

She was wrong.

"I did not expect this," she said. "I hear all of these students and their achievements, and I'm glad to be among them."


E-MAIL: jtcook@desnews.com