Sanpete Sterling Scholars shine
Depth of candidate’s knowledge and
skills required are remarkable
By Suzanne Dean
Mar. 22, 2018
RICHFIELD—The Sterling Scholar program is designed to recognize high school students for achievement in 14 subject areas. A few students are honored in the 15th category, “general scholarship.”
But when Maria Shilaos of KSL Radio read profiles of regional winners during the Central Utah awards ceremony last Thursday, March 15, at Richfield High School, it was obvious the talent and drive of Sterling Scholars stretches far beyond their specific subject areas.
Take Breanna Hedelius of Manti High School, the Sterling Scholar in math.
At age 4, she learned the square root of 144. She’s currently taking calculus. And she got 33 out of 36 possible on the math section of the ACT, which put her in the top 2 percent of test takers nationwide.
But Breanna, the daughter of Eric and Merilyn Hedelius of Manti, is much more than a math brain. She’s a student body officer at Manti High, serves on the Manti Youth City Council as mayor and is the reigning Miss Manti.
And she played a key role in collecting 7,460 books for Kenya.
Thirteen high schools participated in the Central Region Sterling Scholar competition this year. A number of small schools had contestants in only a few categories.
Nonetheless, it was notable that five of the 15 winners, or one-third, were from two Sanpete County schools. Manti High ended up with three winners, while North Sanpete had two.
Besides naming a winner, Sterling Scholar judges tapped two runners-up in each of the 15 categories, or 30 runners-up total. Twelve of the runners up, or 40 percent, were from the three public high schools in Sanpete County.
North Sanpete had seven runners-up, Manti three and Gunnison Valley two. (See accompanying chart.)
Other top winners from the county were like Breanna. Their profiles, as read by Shilaos, showed a broad range of accomplishments.
Kjerstin Birch, daughter of Troy and Lori Birch of Ephraim, who attends Manti High, was named Sterling Scholar in business and marketing.
She has been an officer in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) at Manti for the past three years and was selected as a Utah delegate to the national FBLA convention. She participated in a three-day entrepreneurship competition at the Leonardo museum in Salt Lake City.
But besides those business-related activities, she played volleyball and basketball for Manti, is mayor on the Ephraim Youth City Council, has a 4.0 grade-point average and had a composite score of 30 on the ACT, which puts her in the top 5 percent of the nation.
But she says the highlight of her life was building housing in Merida, Mexico, for neglected and abandoned elderly women.
The regional winner in music was Trevor Olson, a North Sanpete High School student and the son of Glen and Ann Jeanette Olson of Moroni.
A saxophone player, he has participated in state competitions in band, jazz band and marching band. Last year, he was the drum major of the marching band. He has also participated in community music ensembles.
But aside from his music, he helped found the chess and math clubs at North Sanpete, has a 3.99 grade-point average and scored 29 on the ACT, which put him in the top 8 percent.
Another North Sanpete High student, Hannah Ostraff, the daughter of Joe and Melinda Ostraff of Fairview, was the regional winner in visual arts.
She has participated in four international art shows, two national shows and several state exhibitions. She organized an art show involving six schools in New Zealand and another that drew from schools in Ireland.
Besides her art activities, she played tennis all four years in high school and was a state semi-finalist her senior year. She is on the staff of the North Sanpete school newspaper, has a 3.9 GPA and has organized many community projects, including one with a senior citizen center.
The fifth Sanpete County winner was Killick Mickelson, a Manti High student and son of Ryan and Jennie Mickelson of Manti. He was named Sterling Scholar in computer and information technology.
Killick has attended computer camps at Southern Utah University and Snow College, he took charge of filming Manti High football games and is a team captain for the wrestling team specifically in charge of media.
He’s also involved in civic and community activities. He attended Boys State, observed at the Utah Legislature, was a member of the Child Abuse Prevention Team, was on Manti Youth City Council and coached a junior wrestling team for three years. He scored 32 on the ACT, which put him in the top 2 percent.
A traditional part of the awards program is a Sterling Scholar from the previous year returning to present a tribute to parents and teachers who helped the students on stage become Sterling Scholar finalists.
This year’s tribute was presented by Jennifer Boekweg of Mt. Pleasant, the 2017 winner in speech and drama, and a graduate of North Sanpete High School.
Recalling her Sterling Scholar experience, she said, “When I wrote my essays, my mother helped me through the revisions. … When I had stressful deadlines, she helped me through the emotional breakdowns.”
Boekweg said teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade had nurtured her and other Sterling Scholars. Often, she said, students started to love the subjects in which they are being honored that night after they were reached and inspired by teachers in those subjects.
The Sterling Scholar program relies not only on faculty advisors at the high schools but on community volunteers.
Dallas and Janelle Overly of Gunnison, outgoing co-chairs of the Central Utah program, received service awards.
And Andy Peterson was recognized for serving for seven years as Sterling Scholar faculty advisor at Gunnison Valley High School.