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Draper Journal

Viking Scholars represent Draper Park Middle as top students

Jun 05, 2018 01:35PM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Park Middle School recently recognized their Viking Scholars, eighth-grade students who represented the top in the school in subject areas, at a dinner in their honor. Missing is Tyler Randall. (Randall Seltz/Draper Park Middle School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Draper Park Middle School student Valerie Witzel looked for a letter in the mail daily during spring break. The letter would reveal if the eighth-grader was successful in her essay, interview and presentations in French and would be named the school’s Viking Scholar for world languages.

When the letter arrived, Valerie was stressed. She couldn’t initially open it.

“I wanted to win, but I really wanted my friends to win as well,” she said.

For 15 minutes, she stared at the envelope on the kitchen counter.

Her classmate Tyler Randall also was waiting for the mail to determine if he would be Draper Park’s Viking Scholar in mathematics. 

“My mom had opened the letter and had a sad face when she handed it to me,” he said. “I could tell she had read it first. I took the envelope and was preparing myself as I pulled out the letter. But she tricked me and said, ‘You won.’” 

Meanwhile, Valerie sent texts to her friends to see if they too had received their envelopes. Finally, she opened her envelope to see that she, too, had won. 

“I literally screamed and my mom came running downstairs to make sure I was OK,” she said.

The Viking Scholar program is modeled after the high school’s Sterling Scholar program, which allows students to compete in 11 subject areas. 

The middle school program was created several years ago by Nate Edvalson, who served under Draper Park Principal Mary Anderson at Union Middle. Then the program was called the Bobcat Scholar, but when the two came to Draper Park, he continued the program as the Viking Scholar. 

“It was a way for the students to prepare for the competition of the Sterling Scholar and also become more college and career prepared,” said Edvalson, who now is at Eastmont and is looking at starting the program there. “I looked back at the first year we did it at Union and of the eight areas we had, four of our Bobcats became their high school’s Sterling Scholars. It gives students confidence and it lets them build toward something, a capstone concept, so they had a direction and felt accomplishment in middle school.”

The Viking Scholar program, now coordinated by Draper Park Assistant Principal Randall Seltz, has an online application students completed in early 2018. Students listed their awards and honors, leadership positions, community service, unique qualifications for the category they’ve selected, future goals and relevant activities, and wrote a brief letter on why they believe they were the best candidates for Viking Scholars in their chosen areas. In addition, Seltz said students’ transcripts are reviewed for their GPA and citizenship. 

“We want them to think globally,” he said. “We encourage all our students to go through the process as this will help them with any kind of application, interview, job or scholarship program. It also gives them a chance to get feedback so they know how to improve for their future careers — even if they’re not the Viking Scholar.”

Valerie listed her service and activities, including participating in her school’s intramural cross-country team and debate team — where she competed at state — her service at church and her participation in the Miss Draper Pageant. 

Tyler included participating on several sports teams as well as the Canyons Youth Symphony and his plans to earn his Boy Scout Eagle.

This year, Seltz received 78 applications, about 20 percent of the eighth-grade class. From there, a team of teachers, aides, counselors and others interviewed 49 students, who followed the rubric. Those in dance and music had to prepare pieces to perform while those in foreign languages had to present a program where they could talk about the culture of a country in their language, he said. 

While each student can apply in two areas, they also have to indicate their preference. Both Valerie and Tyler applied for two areas. 

“I was so excited about English, I had my essay and creative writing assignment all ready to go when I learned that I wasn’t going on in that, but in French,” Valerie said. “I decided to take French in first grade and it worked out well since I lived close to Oak Hollow (which offers French dual immersion). I presented a PowerPoint about the French culture on Guadeloupe and explained the cultural differences between there and Utah.”

Tyler had thought his music would give him an edge, but similarly, discovered it was in math that he was selected to advance to the interview.

“Math is what I love,” he said. “I could go into engineering or the medical field. There’s a love of logic with math. Everything fits together and makes sense. I had a to solve an algebra question and a geometry question and explain my solutions.” 

This year’s Viking Scholars were honored May 1 at a banquet where they were given $150 in the Utah Educational Savings Program in addition to being presented a trophy of a Viking with a shield. 

In addition to Valerie and Tyler, this year’s Viking Scholars are Katie Burnett, English; Avery Hewitson, science; Ashlin Richardson, social studies; Lauren Dunn, theater; Madeline Chambers, dance; Megan Reimann, instrumental music; Madeline Ross, vocal music; Isabella Nibley, visual art; and Lily Nahoopii, career and technical education. 

“There are a lot of changes in middle school,” Seltz said. “Students are now changing classes, learning locker combinations and meeting new friends. At times it can seem scary. At other times, they’re working tirelessly to improve themselves. This is a way for them to show how they’ve grown and learned.”