1 of 131
Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE — Hannah Biesinger of AMES performs during the 2016 Sterling Scholar Awards Ceremony in Salt Lake City, Thursday, March 10, 2016.

By definition, “sterling” is something pure and valuable, synonymous with adjectives like, “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “commendable.” Certainly, all these words apply to the many students throughout Utah who participate in the Sterling Scholar Award program.

“Sterling Scholar was really a life changing experience for me," said Annie Henrie, the 2004 visual arts Sterling Scholar. "I had always wanted to be a professional artist, and the Sterling Scholar awards looked like a great opportunity to see if I could be qualified for this type of career, to see if I could ‘make it’ in a sense, and the scholarships available made it an exciting challenge.

"Winning in the state finals for Sterling Scholar gave me an enormous amount of confidence in my abilities and hope for success in the art field.”

Today, Henrie is a professional artist whose work can be found in the Bronze Coast Gallery in Cannon Beach, Oregon, Deseret Bookstores throughout Utah and the Authentique Gallery in St. George.

Since 1962, Deseret News has sought to honor the high school seniors who live up to that standard and will continue to do so. Deseret Management Corp., the parent company of Deseret News and KSL Broadcasting Group, has continued this tradition 55 years later. Funding for the scholarships is provided through the charitable arm of DMC, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation, which supports this philosophy of recognizing sterling qualities in Utah’s students.

Mitchell Talmadge, who won the Sterling Scholar award in computer technology in 2016, said the Sterling Scholar program was one of the largest reasons he is able to attend college.

“The prestigious nature of the award has helped me to earn scholarships I would not have been able to beforehand, allowing me to pay for my college education when I previously felt that I would not be able to," he said. "Carrying such a title has been a huge motivator for me. When times get tough in college, I remember all the work I put in to get here, and it gives me that boost I need to keep going.”

Deseret News and KSL Broadcast Group directly administer the Wasatch Front Region, one of five throughout the state. The other regions where the Sterling Scholar program is independently implemented are Central Utah, Northeast Utah, Southeast Utah and Southwest Utah.

To accommodate more than 1,000 nominees from 77 high schools within the Wasatch Front, the region is also broken up into three areas: North, Central and South. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, judges will gather at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden, Copper Hills High School in West Jordan and Lone Peak High School in Highland to consider which of this year’s semifinalists will proceed to the finals competition and ultimately be named among the Sterling Scholars of 2017.

Students from each high school are nominated in one of 14 categories — English, mathematics, social science, science, world languages, computer technology, skilled and technical sciences education, family and consumer sciences, business and marketing, speech/theater arts/forensics, visual arts, dance, instrumental music and vocal performance. Scholarships are awarded to the winner and two runners-up in each category.

After receiving a nomination from their schools, these students then spend months crafting and collecting a portfolio showcasing their achievements and a summary of their hard work in their categories throughout their academic careers. They are then judged in their category fields. The semifinal competition held Feb. 15 will narrow down nearly 1,000 nominees from the Wasatch Front Region to 210 finalists. From that group, 14 winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony in the LDS Conference Center Little Theatre on Thursday, March 9.

The Central Region competition and awards ceremony will be held at Richfield High School on Tuesday, March 21. The Southeast Region competition and awards ceremony will be held at USU-Price on March 22. The Northeast Region competition and awards ceremony will be held at Uintah High School on March 28. The Southwest Region competition will be held at Southern Utah University on Thursday, April 6.

In addition to the scholarship money awarded to each category winner, 15 universities, colleges and business and technical schools offer scholarships to winners and runners-up. Additional information about these scholarships is included in this section.

The Philo T. Farnsworth Excellence in Education/Governor’s Award and the Zions Bank Service Award will also be presented as special awards. A member of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s staff will present the Farnsworth/Governor’s Award in recognition of outstanding scholarship in a technical field.

“I am honored to be part of such a prestigious program that brings thousands of talented students and members in the community together throughout the state," Jenniffer Michaelson, Sterling Scholar Program director, said. "I am impressed by the hard work and determination these students have to succeed and the long hours their teachers and regional judges dedicate to the Sterling Scholar program.”