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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Here are Spokane’s top scholars in 6 categories. They just split $60,000.

At the 25th Annual Spokane Scholars Foundation Awards Banquet Monday, Jonas LaPier from Central Valley High School steps forward after learning he just won the top $4,000 scholarship for science. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Jonas LaPier has worked as a research assistant at Eastern Washington University for nearly three years.

And soon he’ll graduate from Central Valley High School.

“I like science,” said LaPier, who won a $4,000 grant at the 25th annual Spokane Scholars Foundation banquet Monday evening. “I’ve always been interested in the natural world and how it works.”

That money will come in handy when he attends Harvard University next year. He’s not sure what he wants to study. It’s a toss-up between biological and environmental engineering.

LaPier is one of 24 students who received scholarships during the Spokane Scholars banquet in a jam-packed ballroom at the Spokane Convention Center.

Proud parents in formal attire clapped and cheered as their children stood in a row on the stage, shaking hands with prominent locals and taking hold of crisp Spokane Scholars certificates emblazoned with their names.

Grant winners were chosen from a pool of 144 students from public and private schools across the Spokane region.

A total of $60,000 was doled out to four students in each of six categories: math, science, world languages, social studies, fine arts and English. The top winners in each category received $4,000. Others won awards of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000.

The Spokane Scholars are rising stars in their respective academic fields. But it would be hard to argue they have one-track minds.

LaPier, for instance, plays French horn in the Spokane Youth Symphony and trumpet in Central Valley’s jazz band.

Likewise, Noah Placzek of Mead High School has a knack for robotics and scored high on AP tests in physics and calculus. He won the biggest grant in the fine arts category for his expansive musical talent.

And Ella McKeirnan, who topped her peers in the math category, plans to continue studying Spanish in college. The Gonzaga Prep senior already is taking classes at Gonzaga University because she aced all the math classes that her high school offers.

The students honored at Monday night’s banquet boasted high GPAs, head-turning test scores and a range of lofty goals and extracurricular activities.

In a speech, the president of the Spokane Scholars Foundation, Eric Johnson, acknowledged that the event recognizes only a small share of the region’s hard-working students. The winners are chosen by a panel of judges in each category.

The banquet featured motivational speeches by two past Spokane Scholars award recipients – Rachel Wagley, a foreign policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Parker Barrile, who runs a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

“To say Spokane Scholars changed my life would be an understatement,” Barrile said, pacing across the stage in a gray suit and a headset microphone. “I hope it changes yours.”

The 2017 Spokane Scholars are:


Benjamin Read, Lewis and Clark High School, $4,000 grant

Elizabeth Marcinkowski, Gonzaga Preparatory School, $3,000 grant

Taylor Bastian, Mt. Spokane High School, $2,000 grant

David Song, North Central High School, $1,000 grant

Fine arts

Noah Placzek, Mead High School, $4,000 grant

Alexis Fox, Central Valley High School, $3,000 grant

Evan Figuracion, University High School, $2,000 grant

Allison Pinnock, Ferris High School, $1,000 grant


Ella McKeirnan, Gonzaga Preparatory School, $4,000 grant

Grace Teeple, Ferris High School, $3,000 grant

Travis Dillon, Newport High School, $2,000 grant

Nancy Liu, University High School, $1,000 grant


Jonas LaPier, Central Valley High School, $4,000 grant

Chris Matsumura, Ferris High School, $3,000 grant

Sydney Jones, West Valley High School, $2,000 grant

Peter Colvin, Gonzaga Preparatory School, $1,000 grant

Social studies

Preston Carlson, East Valley High School, $4,000 grant

Henry Knight, North Central High School, $3,000 grant

Maxwell Gillmer, Lewis and Clark High School, $2,000 grant

Gwyneth Potter, Central Valley High School, $1,000 grant

World languages

Craig Robertson, University High School, $4,000 grant

Phoebe Dierdorff, The Oaks Classical Christian Academy, $3,000 grant

Desirae Thosath, Freeman High School, $2,000 grant

Marie Taylor, West Valley High School, $1,000 grant