When Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theater revealed which shows would be staged in the coming year, the voices of Hillcrest High students belting “You Will Be Found” from the Tony Award-winning “Dear Evan Hansen” were a pitch-perfect part of the publicity blitz.

Videographers were at Hillcrest on Monday to film students in the vaunted drama program perform the song from the popular show, which will attract crowds March 4-14. Clips of the Husky performance, done in the school’s auditorium, will be used by the theater to promote the show and six others that are coming for the 2019-2020 season.

Along with “Dear Evan Hansen,” Broadway at the Eccles will mount such box-office draws as “Frozen,” “Miss Saigon,” “A Christmas Story,” “Anastasia,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” The lineup was rolled out on Friday, March 22 — the same day that theatergoers could renew their season tickets. The Hillcrest students who performed the “Dear Evan Hansen” song on Monday said they hoped to snap up expected-to-be-scarce tickets to the show that resonates with audiences of all ages but has proven particular popular with teenagers. 

Hillcrest drama teacher Josh Long said his students were given less than a week to learn the song before the filming. It was particularly hectic, Long said, because rehearsals had to be scheduled around planned choir performances and the school’s March 14-16 production of “Akhnaton,” which was the first time the Agatha Christie play had been performed in Utah.

Long said his students were asked to do the performance after Eccles Theater officials saw  — and were impressed with — Hillcrest’s performance at last year’s Utah High School Musical Theater Awards at which the school won Best Musical for “Les Miserables.” The show’s star, Bennett Chew, also won the Best Actor for his portrayal of Jean Valjean

As part of the Monday rehearsal, Long said, the students were able to Skype with a New York-based director who gave them tips on how to perform the song for the cameras.  

Standing between seats in the auditorium where she’s made countless memories during musicals and plays, senior Megan Wheat said it was thrilling to receive tips from entertainment-industry insiders who work with some of the country’s top stage talents. Among the notes:  Students were encouraged to find balance between the acting and singing — and to err on the side of performing with emotion and intent rather than a rote recitation of words to the song. 

Senior Ian Williams, who was cast as Link Larkin in Hillcrest’s fall production of “Hairspray,” said the experience helped cap his last few months at the school before graduation. 

“That was one of the coolest things I have been able to do,” Williams said after the filming wrapped Monday morning. “This is kind of something you hope for, but you don’t ever know if you’ll ever be able to do it.”
Is it in the DNA? Or is it just a lot of hard work? Perhaps it's a mix of both for Canyons District’s Cheng family, who can now boast two General Scholar winners at the annual Sterling Scholar competition.

On Friday, March 15, 2019, Alexander Cheng, a senior at Hillcrest who has been accepted to Stanford, was named the winner of the Science category before being announced as the overall winner of the 57th annual competition that singles out the best and brightest in the state.

In 2016, Alexander’s brother, Anthony, also was given the top award in the prestigious competition sponsored by the Deseret News and KSL-TV. For his achievements in the prestigious competition, Alexander Cheng ended the night with a $2,500 check as the Science Sterling Scholar and an additional $2,500 for being named General Scholar. 

This is just the latest in a string of big accomplishments for Alexander Cheng, the top student in Hillcrest’s Class of 2019 and one of 80 students worldwide selected to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Research Science Institute.

Cheng was recently selected as a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar and a regional finalist in the national Coca-Cola scholarship. Last week, he also learned he won first place in the Materials and Biomedical category at the University of Utah’s Science and Engineering Fair for his entry, “Determining the Role of Microvascular Pathology as Reflected by Changes in Primary and Secondary Retinal Vessels in the Pathophysiology of Diabetic Complications.” 

"It's truly an honor to even be here so I'm truly blessed to have won and to be recognized. I'm so grateful, especially to my parents for all of their support and help,” Alexander Cheng told the Deseret News.  “I think they're really crucial. My brother actually won General Sterling Scholar three years ago. It just goes to show the dedication and the influence they've had on us so I really thank my parents.” 

In the 2019 Sterling Scholar competition, 13 students from Canyons District high schools advanced to the final round of competition in 14 categories.  Seven of those students were named runners up in their respective categories. 

From Alta High, Christian Affleck was a runner-up in the Vocal Performance category and Avery Gunnel was one of the top three students in the Instrumental Music category.  Brighton High’s Caroline Jarman was a runner-up in Computer Technology, and Hillcrest’s Alan Zhao, Ashley Howell, and Alana Liu were runners-up in the Math, Skilled and Technical Sciences, and Visual Arts categories, respectively.
If these walls could talk, they would tell stories of edge-of-your-seat wins and losses, drenched-with-sweat practices, the thump-and-blare of the pep band, and the heard-for-miles cheers of generations of Huskies.

While history has been kind to Hillcrest's Art Hughes Gymnasium, the time has come to build new memories in a facility that's being constructed for the generations to come.

A pack of former players, some of whom played on the school's first championship-winning team in 1968, attended the Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 boys hoops game against Kearns High. They were honored at the outset of the game for contributing to the strength of the home of the Huskies and mark the last home game played by the boys team before the more-than-50-year-old gym is torn down to  make way for the new Hillcrest High, which will be built in phases over the next three years. 

Construction crews are already working on the site of the school, which is being built with proceeds from a $283 million bond approved by voters in November 2018.  It’s one of four  construction projects now being done in Canyons District, including a rebuild of Brighton High, a major renovation at Alta High, and a classroom-wing addition at Corner Canyon High. 

At the region game, the former players, who are brothers and friends, shook hands, hugged and re-lived the buzzer-beating shots, off-the-board rebounds, and the bonds built during the hours of practice and game-time play. They talked about the days gone by, when the entire community came to watch the Huskies hit the hardwood.   

“It was a lot of fun to play here,” said Ron Hatch, the 6-foot 4-inch center of the title-holding 1968 squad. “Both sides of the court would be full (of cheering fans.)”

But there was a lot less to do in those days, he says, no Netflix, no Internet, no video games. “People came out to watch basketball. It was different then. It was what everybody did.” 

“The game was different then, too,” he said. “You didn’t worry about who was going to get the  ball. You just went out and played. It was so much fun.” 

George Hughes, the son of the coach after whom the gym is named, recalled the good times had in the gymnasium throughout the years. “When I first entered his gym, I was just in awe,” he said. At the time, the Huskies’ gym was new, shiny, and ready to welcome the community. 

Hughes said his father, who died in 2003, was immensely proud to coach the Huskies, and led the school to state championships, including the school’s first hoops title.

George Hughes said he was thrilled to attend the school while his dad was at the hoops helm, and held up his golden “H” that he earned for his letterman’s jacket.  “I was proud to have gone to this school, to have played for this school.” 

On Tuesday night, the stands were full of cheering students, parents, friends and boosters. The cheer squad jumped and flipped, and the Hillcrest drill team hip-hopped through a half-time routine. While the Huskies did not emerge victorious, they played as strong as their legacy.

On Friday, Feb. 15, the girls' hoops team will take the floor at 7 p.m.  At the sound of the game-ending whistle, an era will end. And the score will be the last one tallied in the stadium where champions have been made.
Eighteen Canyons District students have advanced in a rigorous race to claim one of the country’s most prestigious scholarships for high school seniors. 

Students from Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon and Hillcrest high schools today were announced as semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholar competition.  

The high-achieving CSD students join about 16,000 other top scholars who remain eligible to vie for 7,500 scholarships worth $31 million.

The roster of semifinalists was chosen from a field of 1.6 million students at more than 22,000 high schools. The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The number is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Candidates for National Merit Scholar awards must write an essay and take a prequalifying test, as well as submit SAT scores. Also required is a detailed scholarship application in which the students must provide academic-record and community-involvement information. The students must note their leadership experiences, voluntarism, employment and any other honors received, too.

The finalists and winners of 2019 scholarships will be announced in the spring

The students and their schools are: 

Alta High
  • Abigail Hardy 
  • Joshua Mickelson 
  • Joshua Pomeroy
Brighton High
  • Alex Fankhauser 
  • Sofia Maw 
  • Jenna Rupper
Corner Canyon
  • Sebastian Lee 
  • Peter Oldham
Hillcrest High
  • Alex Chang 
  • Anthony Grimshaw 
  • Bryan Guo 
  • Saey Kamtekar 
  • Emily Langie 
  • Hongying Liu 
  • Warren McCarthy 
  • Landon Nipko 
  • Eric Yu 
  • Alan Zhao
Asked to reflect on the whirlwind of events in recent years — the pomp of graduation from a top-tier university; scrappy early days as an entrepreneur; and launch of a billion-dollars-a-day-in-transactions trading firm — Christina Qi pauses and exhales before showing a rare moment of incredulity. 

“I still can’t believe it,” says Qi, a Hillcrest High graduate who is a rising star in the fast-changing, tech-heavy, algorithm-reliant world of high-frequency trading. “It’s all kind of surreal.” 

Qi, who left the Midvale-area school to pursue a degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has spent her life wisely since arriving in New England. After earning a degree at MIT in 2013, she and two friends hit the pavement, looking for forward-thinking investors who believed in their plan to revolutionize how trading firms do business.  

Contrary to business-world tradition, Qi’s company, named Domeyard, embraces a relatively flat organizational structure. While there are employees who serve in roles traditionally reserved for a Chief Executive Officer or Chief Technology Officer, everyone in the firm has the title “partner” she said.  Also, the company develops its own technologies, is selective about clients, and builds trading strategies that blend the best thinking of new and established firms, she said.

Not only has Domeyard gained a prominent foothold in a notoriously difficult field, Qi and her two partners, Luca Lin and Jonathan Wang, have received accolades for their wise-beyond-their-years instincts and commitment to hard work. Most notable: Earlier this year, the trio was named to Forbes’ prestigious “30 under 30” list of movers and shakers in the world of finance.   

The magazine says the 2017 list is an “encyclopedia of creative disruption” in 20 different industries. The hot, up-and-coming talent in such fields as art and style, Hollywood and entertainment, media, energy, sports and science are nominated, vetted and selected by the publication’s “ace reporters and a panel of A-list judges.”

Qi admits to being a little star-struck at a Forbes-list summit in October. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I am here with Joe Jonas,’” she said about the 30-under-30 honoree meet-up, which draws current and former list-makers. This year’s list includes Jonas, actress Zoe Kravitz, DJ-producer Marshmello, Tony winner Ben Platt, and Facebook Operations Vice President Jay Hammonds. 

“That was definitely really cool.  It was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re really real,’” she said about hob-nobbing with Hollywood hoi polloi. And it also marked quite a journey from the hallways at Hillcrest, Midvale Middle and Peruvian Park Elementary schools. 

With a bit of a shy chuckle, Qi, 26, who interned at Goldman Sachs, confesses to being more than a little skeptical when a Forbes reporter first contacted the company about being featured in the publication. The former student in Hillcrest’s vaunted International Baccalaureate program also reeled from the attention when the profile on Domeyard was featured on Forbes’ homepage. “My phone just started blowing up,” she says.

The magazine tells the story of Domeyard’s early days as a dorm-room enterprise, Qi’s role as the partner responsible for raising investment funds, and the late nights spent babysitting the algorithms that Qi, Lin and Wang were using to make trades in the European market.  Forbes also reveals that the name Domeyard comes from landmarks at MIT and Harvard. 

“It took nearly three years for Domeyard to get up and running,” states the Forbes story.  “Qi was effective at raising money, but the young traders needed to build up the technology and infrastructure required for data-driven trading—securing servers in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s data center, writing a few million lines of code, and setting up the capability to support several petabytes of data.” 

But Forbes also notes Domeyard’s “brash and optimistic” nimble nature, based on youth, small size and drive for innovation.

“The Domeyard crew is operating in a field dominated by big firms with years of operating history that have spent fortunes on infrastructure and armies of mathematicians and engineers. In addition, this low-volatility stock market era has cut deeply into some of the richest strategies of high frequency traders, causing a wave of consolidation in the industry,” the story reads. “But Domeyard’s young founders think that there are some advantages to being the new kids on the high-frequency block. The firm is working to unlock profitable trading strategies by using sequential machine learning and making large scale computations of statistics.”

Qi says many of the lessons learned at Hillcrest High stay with her today.  She also fondly recalls the teachers who inspired her, programs that gave her a solid academic foundation, and the spirit of the students who were proud to be Huskies.

In particular, she praises now-retired biology teacher Phil Talbot. In fact, in 2010, Qi successfully nominated Talbot for a prestigious MIT Alumni Association Inspirational Teacher Award. He was one of 37 teachers nationwide to be presented with the honor from the institution. “The way he connected with students … there were students in our class who became doctors because of the way he taught his class, she said.  “Once, when I was home, I ran into him (at a local restaurant), and I just broke down.  It was so good to see him before he retired.”

“Overall, I loved the spirit of Hillcrest. It was better than anything I have ever experienced, even at MIT,” she says, noting that Hillcrest High, not known for having a student body with excess personal funds, is generous to those in the community with even less. “A lot of the students don’t come from wealthy backgrounds, but they still give back … It’s a lesson for all of us.”
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