How do you tell a Sterling Scholar winner?

You watch a tentative grin grow ear-to-ear as he or she recognizes that the list of accomplishments being read by an emcee belongs to him or her.A dozen such grins were noted Wednesday evening as the top scholars in 12 academic categories were named, along with two runners-up in the culmination of the 1989 Sterling Scholars competition.

And when all is said and done, what do the scholars say about what they've done? Heidi Hubrich of Alta High School, a runner-up in the business education category, summed up nicely for the entire contingent when she said, "I learned a lot of things about myself - that I'm a pretty neat person and that I have lots to give." All of the time and effort of preparing to take part in the Sterling Scholars program were worth it, she said.

Although Heidi was a winner in business, she plans to major in psychology and become, perhaps, a corporate psychologist - or a business consultant.

Such multiple interests are common among the scholars. Tammy Chau, Alta High School, was a finalist in foreign languages but plans to go into engineering.

The Sterling Scholars experience was something she could hardly have dreamed of when she came to the United States 10 years ago as a refugee from Vietnam, she said. "It has been a wonderful experience getting to know all these talented and wonderful people. I never imagined I'd ever do anything like this."

A Vietnamese in America, of course, takes up French as the special emphasis on which to build a Sterling Scholar bid.

For Larry and Amaryllis Tippetts, Wednesday evening's results made it worth the times they had "taken up the slack" on household chores while their daughter, Heather, prepared her entries in the homemaking category.

"She's done a lot by herself. She just told us when to come and support her," Mrs. Tippetts said. "She spent lots of late nights getting ready." When Heather was announced as a runner-up in the category, late nights and chore-sharing fell into place for the proud Tippetts.

They could hardly have planned in advance, but the three winners in the music category, Karin Hendricks, Logan; Sidnee-Marie Spencer; Cottonwood, and Juliet Gamero, Alta, were in perfect harmony - a trio outfitted in shades of peach.

Provo Mayor Joseph A. Jenkins, one of the presenters, summed up the spirit of the Sterling Scholar program when he said that "it is they to whom we look as the creators of our future."

A standing ovation honored Bradley Chidester, Alta High School, one of the finalists in the visual arts category. Although severely handicapped and confined to a wheelchair, he has created art works that have received considerable critical acclaim. He was honored for "persistence, courage and determination" and for "incredible achievement" despite his physical challenges.

Had there been a "body English" winner, it wouldn't have been a student but John Yoon, director of the Davis High Jazz Band, who really got into his work. The band belted out two outstanding numbers reflective of the director's energy.

For many of the students, Wednesday night capped several years of effort. "It gave her a goal for four years," said Arvin Cook of his daughter, Judy. Her response: "I learned there are lots of high goals to set - and I can achieve them." The Murray High School senior is heading for a career in the performing arts.

With the curtain down and their energy up, many of the scholars posed for family pictures to record the 1989 event for posterity. The Stratfords of Ogden - general scholarship runner-up Ryan and his parents Roger and Pam - got a little help from Deseret News staff photographer Ravell Call so they could all be in the picture. Call, draped with hundreds of dollars in sophisticated photography equipment, had to ask directions on setting the Stratfords' simple camera.

"This program is phenomenal," Stratford said. "It's one of the best things that is done in Utah. These kids are going to be the ones who make America run. They put in as many hours as the athletes and do a lot of neat things."

Ryan stepped into the shoes, figuratively speaking, of an older brother who also was a Sterling Scholar - and into his brother's suit, literally speaking, for the awards ceremony.

Among the "neat things" some of the scholars have done already in their young lives:

Industrial education winner Lisa Marie Barnes, Clearfield, already works as a nursing assistant and has taken many advanced courses in first aid; science winner Kelly A. Shepard, Roy, has created projects that have received national note; mathematics winner Brent Bellm, West Jordan, won a bridge-building contest; and Kimberly Johnson began becoming a winner in the English category when she wrote her first book - at age 7.

Leaving the ceremony with a hefty box of portfolios, Karen Siegler of Jordan High School, adviser to the school's Sterling Scholars, said it had been a learning experience for her, too. "The advisers learn how better to prepare their students for the competition, get a better idea of the process." Four of her charges were among the finalists, none were winners.

"But there's always next year," she concluded.