After three weeks of waiting on pins and needles, select teens were awarded collectively $47,500 in cash at the Deseret News/KSL-5 Television Sterling Scholars program Wednesday night.
The event, held at Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, brought out the cream of the crop of exemplary youths, all vying for top academic honors.
The Sterling Scholar Awards have spread throughout Utah, with participants from nearly 92 public high schools, divided into five regions.
For the Wasatch Front region, more than 700 students competed from 54 high schools with a resulting 195 finalists. These senior students waited anxiously Wednesday night to see if they were one of 13 category winners, ranging from math to science to dance. Each receives $2,000 cash.
One top winner, selected from the 13 recipients, is awarded General Sterling Scholar, which comes with the $2,000 category cash plus an additional $2,500.
There are also two special awards: the Philo T. Farnsworth Excellence in Education/Governor's Award, and the Douglas F. Bates Community Service Award. Each receives a trophy and $400.
A total of 26 runners-up are also honored, each winning $700 in cash.
Sixteen universities, colleges, businesses and technical schools offer scholarships to the Sterling Scholar winners and runners-up.
The ceremony is akin to the Academy Awards, with the students dressing up in their formal best and receiving flowers and other gifts from family and friends.
Alice Lin, of West High School, was the winner of the business and marketing category — and the top pick of the 13 to receive the General Sterling Scholar award. She was not present to receive her award.
Lin is the Utah DECA president. DECA is an organization for high school and college students studying business-related fields.
"It is unfortunate that we don't see women as doctors and CEOs of companies as often as we should," Lin wrote in her entry essay.
West High made a great showing Wednesday night, with four students earning scholarships. Two Skyline High School students were also in the top 13.
Hiram Golze, of Skyline High, earned the math scholarship. He said he just doesn't understand people who say math isn't fun. "That's just a stereotype," Golze said. He has been accepted at MIT and Brigham Young University — and may have to flip a coin to decide.
The remaining seven scholarships went to teens at Provo High, Hillcrest High, American Fork High, Timpanogos High, Box Elder High, Weber High and Lehi High.
Jeremy Lofthouse, of Weber, won in the speech and drama category. His cash award will go toward his school trip to New York City, where they will see five Broadway shows including "Mary Poppins," "West Side Story" and "Phantom of the Opera."
"I've never been east of Utah," Lofthouse said.
Of the two special awards, the Philo T. Farnsworth Excellence in Education/Governor's Award went to West High's Sami Safiullah and the Douglas F. Bates Community Service Award went to Riverton High's Stephanie Goodwin.
Goodwin is a peer tutor for special-needs children. "Those kids are all so sweet and so happy," she said. "They bring a joy to our world."
Goodwin has also helped organize a Halloween party the past few years for patients at Primary Children's Medical Center.
"I will never forget these children whose parents are so thankful for the help, who never realize what an inspiration they are to me," she wrote in her essay. "Being able to help kids who are facing such difficulties smile and enjoy themselves for a couple of hours, escaping the hardships they face daily, is very rewarding."
The semifinals this year were at Davis, Kearns and Mountain View high schools. Final judging was at Alta High.
Judges are from the business community and public and higher education. They hear presentations and conduct interviews with the entrants.
The judges review ACT scores, grade-point averages, class academic standing and AP classes, along with non-academic factors such as volunteer projects and other activities.
Judges view the students' portfolios and rate the students' scholarship, citizenship, leadership and community involvement.
In its 47th year, the Sterling Scholars Award program strives to emphasize academic recognition for Utah public high school seniors.
The program began under former Deseret News education editor Lavor K. Chaffin. He envisioned a program that would raise the standard of academic excellence and felt that the Deseret News should lend both its personnel and financial resources to further the program. This philosophy continues today with the addition of KSL-5 Television as a co-sponsor.
Over the years, Utah's Sterling Scholars have gone on to successful pursuits throughout the state, nation and world.