Park City Sterling Scholars stand out at regional competition
Two students win categories, while seven others finish second
Liz Cantlebary wasn’t expecting to take top honors in the speech, theater and forensics category of the regional Sterling Scholar competition.
The Park City High School senior was delighted when her instinct, for once, proved to be wrong.
“I didn’t feel super confident about my interview,” she said. “But when they started reading off the accomplishments (of the winner), I was like, ‘Oh, those are my accomplishments. That’s cool!’ It was definitely an exciting time.”
Cantlebary was one of two Park City High School students named Sterling Scholar winners at last week’s regional competition in Vernal, while seven others finished as runners up. Molly Hanrahan (Instrumental Music) was the other winner, and the second-place finishers were Isabella Canada, World Languages; Jessica DiCaprio, Science; Megan Peterson, Skilled and Technical Sciences; Alexia Gardner, Social Science; Jared Jones, Computer Technology; Bryan Croce, General; and Kyle Haas, Business and Marketing.
Other students who qualified for the regional competition were: Matthew Burns, Vocal Performance; Morgan Yokubison, Dance; Lucia Feltovich, Visual Arts; Marisa Zanetti, Family and Consumer Sciences; Kieran Ahern, Mathematics; Julia Case, English; and Grant Gabrielson, Agricultural Science.
Hanrahan, who plays trombone, said it was a thrill to hear her name announced as a winner, given the competition she was up against from other schools. It validated her effort throughout high school and the months of hard work compiling a portfolio detailing her accomplishments, one of the primary elements on which the students are judged.
She said the portfolio is something she’ll hang onto for years because it contains many of the special memories from her high school career.
“It was definitely a lot of work, but it was really fun in that you got to look back at everything you’ve done and compile it all together,” she said. “It was cool to look back at your accomplishments, then have a finished product that you’re really, really proud of.”
Heather Briley, PCHS’s financial aid adviser, said it was inspiring to see all the students work so hard in preparation for the competition. Even the ones who didn’t place in the event represent the best PCHS has to offer, and all of them have bright futures ahead, she said.
“We are so proud of our students,” she said. “It’s such a long process, starting this year in November, to build their portfolios and have them due at the end of March. They work their whole four years of high school, so this is kind of their whole high school and academic careers wrapped up in these portfolios and a 15-minute interview. Whether or not they win, to be up against the best in the region is such an honor.”
After the rush of winning wore off for Cantlebary, a captain on the debate team, the experience began to sink in. She said participating in the Sterling Scholar program has been one of the highlights of high school, and one she won’t soon forget.
“Speech has been a central part of my high school career, and I think that Sterling Scholar really allowed me to bring all of that together in the end and be like, ‘Hey, look at all of these cool things I’ve done with public speaking and debate,’” she said.
For Hanrahan, the experience was more special because she shared it with her classmates. She said she learned a lot from spending time with them, and enjoyed cheering them on at the competition.
“It was so much fun because it’s such a great group of kids,” she said. “I know we all bonded and get along well, so there was a great spirit of camaraderie on the day of. When somebody would go off an interview and come back, everyone else would be like, ‘How did it go?’ We’d cheer each other on. I think it made us all stronger to have each other there.”
Cantlebary said going up against some of the most qualified students in the state was also motivating. She enjoyed getting to know some of her competitors and seeing the accomplishments of students from other schools.
“I honestly just had a lot of respect for the other students that were there,” she said. “I looked up to all of them so much. A lot of them were actually more into theater than debate, but all of them were so well rounded and had so many amazing characteristics. I was really impressed and inspired by all of them.”
The winners and runners up will receive scholarships from donors in the community, as well as from the Sterling Scholar program. Additionally, in-state schools offer money for the winners that in some cases could cover their entire tuitions.
Cantlebary, for one, has not yet decided where she will attend college but said she’s grateful for the scholarship money because it will ease the pressure of paying for school.
“For me, it’s really validating of my accomplishments, and it also means it’s going to be that much less of loans I’ll have to take out, or that much less of a burden that I’ll have to place on my parents,” she said. “So it’s really just an empowering feeling to know that I’m going to have the opportunity to take control of my education.”
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