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The City Journals

Copper Hills sterling scholars impress peers, teachers, judges

May 15, 2020 11:09AM ● By Jet Burnham

Copper Hills 2019-20 sterling scholars. Back row: Emily Jensen, state participant, CTE; Loren Yancey, region participant, Math; Ethan Peery, region participant, Business; Ryan Allred, region participant- Visual Art; Mariah Cheney, School winner, Family and Consumer. Middle Row: Kenzie Sayasith, region participant, Science; Brianne Sandburg, school winner, Instrumental Performance; Hailey Winn, region participant, Social Studies; Grace Bramlage, State Champion, World Language. Front Row: Natalie Smiley, state participant, Compter Tech; Taci Miner, State Runner-up, Vocal Performance; Bree Smedley, school winner, Dance; Alyssa Beckstead, state participant, Speech and Debate; Kambrie Wilde, region participant, English. (photo courtesy Kyle Jensen/CHHS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Kyle Jensen was nervous about how students would react to Taci Miner singing an Italian opera piece at the assembly announcing the Copper Hills High School sterling scholars. There was some initial whispering and snickering from the audience.

“About halfway through, the whole mood of the room shifted and was just dead silent,” said Jensen, Sterling Scholar adviser. “Then, Taci hit this high note at the end that she held for forever.”

“As I finished the song, they just exploded,” Taci said. “They stood up and were just roaring with applause. It was surreal. Nothing had ever happened like that before.”

Taci was touched by her peers’ support and encouragement, which gave her confidence as she moved on from school Sterling Scholar to region and then state competition.

“This Sterling Scholar experience has really set her on a path; she might someday become a professional vocal singer,” Jensen said. “Taci was the best singer I've ever heard come out of Copper Hills, and that's saying something.”

At Copper Hills, Taci is a member of ladies choir and madrigals, and vocalist for the jazz band. She has been featured in multiple CHHS musicals, including the vocally challenging lead role of the chaperone in “The Drowsy Chaperone” last fall.

CHHS choir director Marc Taylor said in addition to her extraordinary talent, Taci has fantastic work ethic.

“She is focused and concentrated,” he said. “She doesn't let things distract her from her goals.”

In addition to excellence in a specific academic discipline, students competing in the Sterling Sterling scholarship and recognition program, sponsored by Deseret News, must also show good citizenship and leadership skills.

“They want to make sure that it's not just about them being an awesome vocalist or instrumentalists or mathematician, but they are well rounded and going to be an awesome person in the community,” Taylor said.

As a well-rounded candidate, Miner serves on choir council, seminary council, Hope Squad and is active in community programs.

CHHS has a successful Sterling Scholar tradition, with 94% of the school winners in last five years advancing to the Wasatch Front Central region level, said Jensen.

This year, five CHHS students were among the 168 Utah high school seniors who advanced to the state level. Taci placed as runner-up finalist for the vocal performance division, and Grace Bramlage was named World Languages finalist.

Grace excels in academics, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. After she campaigned to establish an academic decathlon class to support the school team, she placed second overall at this year’s state Academic Decathlon competition. Grace also dazzled judges at the inaugural Educators Rising state competition this spring.

“Basically, anyone that comes in contact with Grace immediately recognizes the intelligence and the leadership,” Jensen said. He said she is also down-to-earth and humble, despite her brilliance. “In the 10 years I've been teaching, I would put her up there in the top two or three of the most exceptional students I've ever had.” 

Grace is fascinated with ancient languages—she studies Spanish, Latin and Greek—but also loves physics.

“I believe understanding the way language works is as vital to understanding the world as physics is,” she said. “The easiest way to understand humanity is through the way we communicate.”

School closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak has not slowed Grace down, though she has had to become more proactive in her learning as she works to complete her high school courses and AP tests long distance.

“A lot of the way I learn is engaging with other people and developing my thoughts concurrently with them and discussing their opinions and building off that,” she said. “And since I don't have that resource of other people's perspectives right now, I have to go more out of my way to research other perspectives and think more in-depth on my own and over a longer period of time.”