Students of Distinction program to enter its 12th year

Editor's DeskFebruary 5, 2014 

For the past 11 years, we’ve partnered with the Peninsula School District and received significant financial support from corporate sponsors to host the Students of Distinction program.

It’s become our annual community service project to recognize greatness in the classroom and to publicly honor a set of graduating high school seniors as they make their way to college.

Now is the time to apply.

Principals at Peninsula School District high schools received application forms last week for seven categories — Academics, Athletics, Music, Drama & Art, Business and Entrepreneurs, Community Service, Overcoming Adversity, and Science & Technology — and they will encourage students to apply. Parents, teachers and peers can also nominate a student.

The forms ask students to list accomplishments and to answer questions about their academic standing and test scores, but emphasis always is put on outside activities. At least one letter of recommendation from a teacher or supervisor is encouraged.

Forms for each category can be found at either Gig Harbor, Peninsula or Henderson Bay high schools, or they can be picked up at the Gateway’s front desk during regular business hours.

The application deadline is Feb. 28. At that time, the forms will be reviewed by a team of school district administrators, who will have the unenviable task of choosing the top applicants.

Just a few weeks later, we’ll publish stories about each one of the students. The nine-week series will run from mid-March through mid-May, and our community banquet will be held May 21.

We’re also accepting community applications for the Alumni of Distinction portion of the event. For more information, see page B5.


Last year, we partnered with the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which helped us connect the scholarship awards to the universities where the students eventually enrolled.

Each of the more than 30 Students of Distinction will receive a $250 scholarship, and a set of community leaders will interview students in each category in April to determine the top choice in the group. Those seven students will receive an extra award.

In all, we anticipate almost $11,000 to be handed out. Contributions in the history of the program have exceeded $115,000.

We’ve had great support from our corporate sponsors in the past, but we haven’t had a way for smaller donations to work with the program. The Greater Gig Harbor Foundation makes it possible for anyone to provide financial assistance, no matter the amount.

If you’d like to contribute, go to, and click on the “donate” button. It will take you to a secure PayPal form that clearly designates the Students of Distinction Fund.


I’d also encourage anyone who would like to volunteer their time or business location for interview day to contact me in the coming weeks.

I’ll be looking for more than 20 panelists to sit down with each student in one of the seven categories. There will be three or four panelists per group, and they’ll work together to determine a category winner.

The date is tentatively set for April 26, and interviews typically take place between 8 a.m. and noon, depending on how many students are in the specific category.

It’s a great time to hear from today’s students and marvel at what they’ve already been able to accomplish.

Editor and Publisher Brian McLean can be reached at 253-358-4150 or by email at Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brian.

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