HHS’s Sterling Scholars Finalists

Sienna Yang, Pawprint Staff Reporter

Hillcrest’s 2021-2022 Sterling Scholar finalists and their respective categories are Anika Balakrishnan in Business and Marketing, Micaela Madariaga in Computer Technology, Danju Zoe Liu in English, Jason Mun in Instrumental Music, Eric Chen in Math, and Louis Jensen in World Languages.

A Sterling Scholar is a high school senior who submits a portfolio and completes an interview about their chosen subject. From the entire pool of applicants, there are only a handful of students chosen school-wide to be Sterling Scholars, and out of all schools, only fifteen are chosen to be finalists.

“I was always really interested in computer technology… I took a lot of coding classes in middle school, and it was a lot of fun,” Madariaga says. “When I got to the application part, it just made sense [to choose computer technology].”

Choosing a category doesn’t have to be from personal interest, though. It can also be from something a student has grown up with.

Jensen explains, “I’ve been learning Spanish since 1st grade, and it has been a huge part of my life since then. When it came time to choose a category for myself, world languages seemed like a no-brainer.”

Aside from schooling, what else are judges and teachers looking for in applicants’ portfolios? What would convince a judge that this particular candidate is the best candidate? 

“… it’s very important that you find ways to apply your category outside of school-related things,” he adds. “I’ve been fortunate enough to use my Spanish in the real world at my job for the past three or four years.”

Hillcrest has a total of six Sterling Scholar finalists- other high schools like Brighton and Alta only had two and one, respectively.

So Hillcrest having six is a huge deal.

“I was so stoked,” Jensen laughs, “I was originally just ecstatic to win on a school level, so having made it this far feels really amazing and surreal.” 

Madriaga reflects, “It’s just a good opportunity. Even if you’ve already sent in college resumes, it still looks good on higher schooling applications.” 

For aspiring Sterling Scholars, there are many things students would have to balance on top of their regular course load. However, Jensen encourages that the best way to get through it is to “…just go for it!” He also advises students to keep their family and friends close: “…having so many amazing people supporting me has really kept me going!”

It may look good on resumes and may be beneficial for future job applications, but what does it mean to the student

“For me personally, it means that all my hard work thus far has really started paying off… it’s a reassurance that I’m a capable language student that has worked very hard to advance my language skills,” Jensen says. 

Applications for Sterling Scholar are only available to seniors, but there is no time frame for a student to start preparing for becoming one.