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Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE — Rachel Laub of Davis High School receives the Philo T. Farnsworth Governor's Award during the 2016 Sterling Scholar Awards Ceremony in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 10, 2016.

Category winners from last year's Sterling Scholar program offer advice to this year's nominees.

Mitch Talmadge

Category: Computer technology

Where are they now?

Studying computer science at the University of Utah. I was directly admitted into both the college of engineering due in large part to my success in Sterling Scholar. I am also part of the Lassonde Studios' Company launch program and am learning valuable business skills. I am currently the CEO of AptiTekk LLC. My company is working on a piece of software called AptiBook that helps schools and businesses manage their room and equipment reservations. I am enjoying every day and I love what I am doing! I'm really living my dream.

Looking back:

The best moments for me include the interviews, seeing the judges' faces light up at my unique projects and passion, and of course, standing before a large group of very talented students on stage as my accomplishments were read. I've never been more humbled than in that moment.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Always show your passion in everything that you do. As you complete the interviews, remember to be yourself and show the judges that you truly love what you do. Get excited, smile, and be happy. You've worked very hard to get this far. Above all, remember that life is what you make of it. Don't let others put you down, and always do what you're passionate about. Life is short, and if there is ever a moment to follow your passion and do what matters to you, that moment is now.

Kenen Goodwin

Category: Science

Where are they now?

Attending Utah State University and studying fisheries and aquatic sciences.

Looking back:

While the worst part of the Sterling Scholar process was the extreme nervousness going into the interviews, the best moment was finishing the final interview and knowing that I had done my best.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Let your passion show!

Caroline Hickey

Category: Vocal performance

Where are they now?

Studying at Brigham Young University where I sing in the women's chorus and work in a chemical engineer research lab. I plan to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this summer. I will receive my formal mission call any day now.

Right now I do not have a declared major, but I love learning. I'm interested in so many things that it is hard for me to pick one subject to study.

Looking back:

The only thing I did not enjoy during the process was all my computer problems. My computer crashed the night before the online portfolios were due. I was very stressed, but with the help of a kind neighbor I was able to turn it in on time.

My favorite part of the Sterling Scholar process was meeting the judges and other competitors. It was wonderful to meet others students that valued music, education and service in the same way that I do. I also loved the opportunity to share my talent. The opportunities that have been presented as a result of this competition have been very rewarding. Most importantly, I grew both personally and vocally. I treasure the experiences and lessons I learned through competing.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Love the journey! Let this experience stretch you and push you in ways that may be uncomfortable. One of my favorite quotes by JFK says, "Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly." Put yourself out there. This is a great opportunity for you to learn about yourselves, learn from others and develop your talents. Good luck, you will do great!

Anna Cvetko

Category: Speech/Theater Arts/Forensics

Where are they now?

Studying economics at Brigham Young University. I am working as a research assistant in the political and economic development labs at BYU providing transparency information on foreign aid and have worked independently with some local research and political consultant groups. I am a member of the BYU Model United Nations team and will be competing at the national conference in New York City in just a few months. I volunteer with a local organization to find homes and employment for refugees, and participate in many clubs on campus.

Looking back:

Just a few days before the submission deadline, I realized I had forgotten to do a video. I was stressing out until my amazing friends on the debate team agreed to do a practice round after school that I could film and use to demonstrate what policy debate is all about. We took turns filming each other giving speeches, so then I took the clips and threw them together, finishing the video just hours before the submission deadline.

The best moment of the process was walking out of my last interview. I felt great about all my responses, and when I reflected on the entire experience, I realized I could not have done any better. All the stress went away because everything was in the judges’ hands, and nothing I could do would impact the decision anymore. It was beyond satisfying.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Do your best to work hard and win, but realize that Sterling Scholar offers so much more than a title. This is something you will always remember, and throughout the process you will find yourself surrounded by amazing individuals, so take advantage. The process of the program is better than winning the competition, so enjoy it.

Anthony Cheng

Category: Mathematics, General Sterling Scholar winner

Where are they now?

Currently a first-semester sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), planning on studying materials science and engineering with a double minor in computer science and entrepreneurship.

Looking back:

It was somewhat stressful going through the rounds of interviews and writing all of the essays but they were a great process of personal growth. As for the best moment, it hands down would be the amazing performances and talent showcases of the awards ceremony, which was a blast to be a part of.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Be confident in yourself and really put every aspect of yourself out there.

Rachel Laub

Winner of Philo T. Farnsworth Governor's Award

Where are they now?

Double major in computer science and math with a minor in entrepreneurship. I am an admissions ambassador and currently running for a senator position at Weber State University. Outside of school I applied for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Collegiate Award, and I am maintaining a website that I built this past year for Students Against Electronic Vaping (SAEV).

Looking back:

Before I applied to Sterling Scholar I never really had gone through an intense set of interviews. Going through the Sterling Scholar process and their difficult interviews helped me build experience and confidence when going into an interview.

Advice to this year's nominees:

To those who win: Congratulations! What an amazing honor to receive, an accomplishment many people were not able to obtain.

To those who do not win: Keep pursuing what you love. Grow, stretch, transform. You are already an amazing individual with so much potential. Do not take this loss as a defeat. Learn from it and improve upon it.

Sadie Lee Chidester

Category: Skilled and Technical Sciences

Where are they now?

Studying English and pre-medical at the University of Utah

Looking back:

The best part was the experience of the application; it was great practice to go through interviews and summarize what I had done.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Stay on top of deadlines and don't turn down great opportunities that can help you gain exposure and experience. Making connections with people and programs now will make everything easier in the future.

Sarah Ratzlaff

Category: Social science

Where are they now?

Currently attending college at Mount Holyoke College located in western Massachusetts. I am leaning towards studying public advocacy in health or international relations with a minor in Chinese. However, I am still exploring the many options I have. In addition to taking classes, I am also a student athlete swimming on the college’s swim team.

Looking back:

The worst moment of the Sterling Scholar process was probably just writing and compiling the whole portfolio — but trust me, it is worth doing well and being creative. The best part of Sterling Scholar was learning why all the candidates were chosen and what they had accomplished. I was both impressed and inspired by all the smart, capable people I shared the stage with that evening.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Know your strengths and capitalize on them. Narrow down what makes you unique and advocate for yourself.

Madeline Black

Category: Family and Consumer Science

Where are they now?

Attending the Culinary Arts Institute at Utah Valley University and am looking at going into hospitality management after I complete my two years at culinary school. I represented UVU and the state of Utah in the Student Chef of the Year regional competition.

Looking back:

I loved creating my portfolio. It was like creating a personal yearbook from my entire high school experience. It was fun, especially during Christmas break, to just spend hours making new pages and gathering dozens of pictures.

Advice to this year's nominees:

Just be yourself in the interviews. I decided to just be myself still and was completely honest in my answers. The judges really are on your side and want to see you succeed.