April 15, 2005 in City

All that studying finally paying off

By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson/ photo

Leslie Griffith, of Lewis and Clark High School, glances at the other Science Award winners at the Spokane Scholars Foundation banquet on Thursday. Griffith won two awards at the banquet celebrating the best scholars from local schools.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane Scholars Foundation awarded $45,000 Thursday evening to the top academic achievers among high school seniors in Spokane County.

Placements in each category were worth the following:

1st place: $3,000

2nd place: $2,000

3rd place: $1,500

4th place: $1,000


1st. Leslie Griffith, Lewis and Clark High School

2nd. Sarah Ellison, Mt. Spokane High School

3rd. Melissa Hanson, West Valley High School

4th. Sarah Hershman, Ferris High School

Fine Arts

1st. Jonathan Steenblik, St. George’s Academy

2nd. Eric Brewer, Mead High School

3rd. Christopher Vennum, West Valley High School

4th. James Miller, Gonzaga Prep

Foreign Languages

1st. Matthew Miller, Lewis and Clark High School

2nd. Daniel Anderson, Gonzaga Prep

3rd. Amanda Hoff, Central Valley High School

4th. Stephen Parkin, North Central High School


1st. Aaron Dilley, Gonzaga Prep

2nd. Annie Stilger Virnig, Lewis and Clark High School

3rd. Justin Numata, University High School

4th. Benjamin Stangle, St. George’s Academy


1st. Leslie Griffith, Lewis and Clark High School

2nd Orion Buske, North Central High School

3rd. Benjamin Stangle, St. George’s Academy

4th. Benjamin Elder, Gonzaga Prep

Social Studies

1st. Michael Skansgaard, Gonzaga Prep

2nd. Glen Water, West Valley High School

3rd. Rebecca Hickman, Central Valley High School

4th. Casey Brett, Ferris High School

The Spokane Scholars Foundation gave out more money Thursday evening than Bob Barker on an average episode of “The Price is Right.”

But there was no screaming, jumping up and down or chest thumping when those judged as the best scholars in Spokane County were announced at a banquet at the Spokane Convention Center (maybe because most said the money would be funding college tuition, not a wild game show-style shopping spree).

Orion Buske insisted his second place award for science achievement was no big deal, even though it came with a check for $2,000.

He seemed more passionate about the experiments he’s working on in a North Central High School lab (something about rainbow trout DNA, and nothing this reporter cares to, or can, explain).

“It’s really good for the students doing what they can to learn, and who don’t think they’re doing anything special,” Buske said about the ceremony.

His teacher told judges that Buske’s achievement is special – actually the most special. He said Buske may be the best science student he’s taught in almost three decades in the classroom.

Officials at each high school in Spokane County provided names to the foundation of their best senior in each category. Panels of judges considered test scores, grade-point averages and other data to pick each field’s top four achievers, who won money donated by area residents and businesses. All the scholars named by each school were invited to the banquet and received a medallion.

“It’s a very aggravating process as a judge because they’re all so good,” said Len Renner, who helped judge the English and foreign language categories. “What these students have accomplished in their young lives is just amazing. You have to sit back in awe.”

Leslie Griffith, of Lewis and Clark High School, won $6,000 for first place finishes in science and English. (This is similar to winning two Showcases, for you “Price of Right” fans.)

“It’s great to be in a room with so many other people whose accomplishments are just so amazing,” she said.

Like other winners, Glen Water, of West Valley High School, gave credit to his teachers, and especially his parents. Water, who with a friend started the Political Debate Association at his school to allow students to hash out the issues of our time, won second place and $2,000 for his work in social studies.

“(My teachers) taught me what I know, but my parents taught me who I am,” Water said. “In the grand scheme of things, I’d rather have a great character than a great intellect.”

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