Boys attired in suits and ties and girls in semi-fancy dresses looked anxious sitting next to beaming parents at the Spokane Convention Center on Monday during the 22nd annual Spokane Scholars Foundation banquet.
“I’m nervous,” said Joshua Ross, a 4.0 student with a 2290 SAT score who attends Central Valley High School. He’d been nominated for honors in social studies.
About 860 people attended the region’s largest academic celebration, where 145 high school seniors were honored for their academic achievements and 24 were awarded scholarships – four each in six content areas: English, mathematics, fine arts, science, social studies and world languages. The awards ranged from $1,000 to $4,000; a total of $60,000, raised through donations and given to teens for college.
Ross had nothing to worry about. He received the top scholarship in social studies. As the recipients’ names continued to be announced, he saw his classmate David Yuan take the top prize in science.
CV’s rival, University High School, took the highest awards in the fine arts and math categories, giving the Central Valley School District four of the six top honors.
“We’re very proud of our students first and foremost,” said Central Valley School District Superintendent Ben Small. “I’m proud to work with a staff that pushes the students … and behind each of these kids is a supportive family.”
The awards show the “well-roundedness they bring: a combination of talents,” he said.
Spokane native and former U.S. congressman George Nethercutt Jr. gave the keynote address on Monday. He shared a message of integrity and being good citizens as he spoke to the largest-ever crowd attending the event.
He also encouraged the students to be kind and open to new experiences. It’s important to have “big hearts with lots of room for everything in your life,” Nethercutt said.
University High School senior Joseph Hall embodies the qualities the keynote speaker encouraged Monday. He won the top prize for fine arts because of his musical talents. But he’s also an engineer: The teen designed a violin that can be played by a person with only one arm.
He’s won drama, music and technology competitions and been the lead in nine musicals. He plans to study bioengineering in college.
Hall’s achievements, as impressive as they sound, are just an example of the types of students the event honors.
Deana Brower, Spokane Public Schools board member, said that as you look around the room “every kid has a story.”