Hailey James

Year: 2013, American Fork High School

Category winner: Science

General Sterling Scholar award

Where are they now? Studying at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Looking back: “I’m really grateful for the Sterling Scholar scholarship, and I also learned a lot throughout the process. I think the interviewing skills we acquired alone were worth it.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Enjoy it! Sterling Scholar will be a defining experience of your senior year, so make the most of it. It can be stressful and definitely a lot of work, but it’s also a great way to reflect on the last few years of your life and all you’ve accomplished. Take advantage of this opportunity to meet some of the coolest kids in Utah.”

Sarah Fletcher

Year: 2013, Mountain View High School

Category winner: Skilled & Technical Sciences Education

Where are they now? Studying mechanical engineering, computer science and astronomy at Brigham Young University.

Looking back: “The (Sterling Scholar) program has given me the opportunity to be able to go to school and only focus on my studies. I might not have been able to go to college this first year without it, but it wasn’t really about the scholarship. The whole experience has helped me grow more confident in myself, as well as help me be more comfortable around my superiors. There are so many people who want to help you in the program, and it shows how good people really can be. I am so grateful for the opportunities the Sterling Scholar program has opened to me.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Be yourself in the interview. These people who make this program possible, and the judges who are there to question you are your friends. They have given so much time and effort for this chance for you to show the world what you can do. When you go into your interview, sincerely thank them for their time, because they are not there to put you down; they are there to help you. They want you to succeed. Relax and treat them respectfully as a friend. Specifically to the Skilled & Technical Sciences scholars, I would say to try to include as many aspects of the category as you can. Look at the list of things you can include carefully and thoughtfully. Judges love it when you are well rounded but are still talented and skilled at what you do.”

Eric Charles Wilcox

Year: 2013, Westlake High School

Category winner: Family and Consumer Sciences

Where are they now? Freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, with an intended major in development studies, with concentrations in political science and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a minor in public policy.

Looking back: “My experience in the Sterling Scholar program was one of the best memories of high school. It was great to create a portfolio highlighting leadership, service and academic contributions to my department. I applaud the program for selecting diverse finalists, all with unique backgrounds and talents. It was amazing to sit among these students during the Sterling Scholar awards ceremony, and it is clear that the program will remain successful if such diverse achievements and future leaders are sought. Becoming a state winner in my category was tremendously humbling and rewarding: I had truly grown personally and professionally through Family& Consumer Sciences.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “You will go far as long as you show confidence and passion in your field. The best of luck!”

Carley Herrick

Year: 2013, Fremont High School

Category winner: Business and Marketing

Where are they now? Working on a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in strategy and a minor in political science at Brigham Young University

Looking back: “The Sterling Scholar Program has not only helped me to get a full-ride scholarship to BYU but has opened countless doors and networks for me. It was definitely a challenging process that took years of preparation and dedication, but all the hard work and interviewing was definitely worth it when they called my name on stage.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Let your personality shine through in your interview and let the judges see you as more than just a perfect GPA or high ACT score. I wish all this year’s candidates the best of luck; may the best businessman or businesswoman win!”

Rachel Sorenson

Year: 2013, Skyline High School

Category winner: Music

Where are they now? Studying violin performance at Brigham Young University

Looking back: “With so many other talented musicians and scholars, I just felt honored to be a competitor. I enjoyed the challenges this competition provided me. Even though none of my performances or interviews went perfectly, I was never disappointed because I had decided in advance to be satisfied with the best ‘me’ I could convey to the judges.

“Participating in the Sterling Scholar program gave me experience and practice with collectedly and professionally expressing myself in high-pressure situations. This has certainly helped me to be more confident as I encounter similar situations in the process of getting my degree.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Be yourself and let the cards fall where they may. You’ve worked hard to get to where you’re at, now you can relax and just be satisfied with all that you’ve accomplished. The Sterling Scholar competition isn’t about winning, it’s about expressing yourself. Good luck!”

Kasper Kubica

Year: 2013, West High School

Category winner: Mathematics

Where are they now? Studying physics at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Looking back: “(The process) was pretty fun all around. The program helped me to realize that I’m good at math in more than a passing way, which has given me the confidence to jump into higher-level math classes at Duke from the very start.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Have passion! Pump yourself up before you enter each interview. And that’s not just Sterling Scholar advice, that’s life advice.”

Indigo Cook

Year: 2013, Skyline High School

Category winner: English

Where are they now? Studying percussion with a concentration in dance at New York University

Looking back: “The best moment from the Sterling Scholar process was the rehearsal before the final awards ceremony. I was sitting next to the rest of the English Sterling Scholar candidates in the school auditorium; we were all very nervous and to calm our nerves we struck up a conversation. We talked about our favorite books, our plans for the future, our lives in general. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by such talented and genuinely good people. I was so honored and humbled to be among them, and it remains my favorite memory.

“The Sterling Scholar program taught me to be meticulous concerning every minute detail of my own work, to take it as seriously as if a scholarship was hanging in the balance, and to be proud of the finished product. I developed an invaluable work ethic as a result.”

Advice for this year’s nominees: “Relax and enjoy the ride — don’t let fear hold you back. This is an amazing experience, from beginning to end, and you need to have faith in yourself and take pride in your accomplishments.”

Words of wisdom from Matthew Holland, President, Utah Valley University

Year: 1984

Category winner: Sterling Scholar in Social Science

Looking back: “I had no idea at the time, but becoming a Sterling Scholar for Social Science was the beginning of a long path of preparation to become a professor of political science and university president. Both in terms of what I learned and what the award signaled, I was guided into opportunities that made all the difference in my educational and professional pursuits.”

Advice for nominees: “If you are selected, stay humble, you still have much to learn; if you are not selected, stay confident, you will find the race ultimately goes to the steady.”

— compiled by Rachel Sterzer