While film critics around the country continue to debate whether “Green Book” was truly the year’s best picture, students in Canyons District schools have set their sights on becoming the next Steven Spielberg, Alfonso Cuaron, or Spike Lee.   

Some 121 student-created entries from nearly every school in Canyons District, were submitted for the consideration of judges in the 10th annual Canyons District Film Festival, which culminates on Monday, April 15 at the Jordan Commons Megaplex Theater, 9335 State. A red carpet entrance for the nominees in six film categories and the poster-creation contest will precede the glitzy 6 p.m. awards ceremony. 

The awards show is free to the public. Seating is limited so the audience is asked to reserve tickets, which can be obtained on the festival’s website.

Organizers also are hoping that connected-to-Utah stars of all kinds — film, TV, music, politics and literature — will use social media to send wishes of good luck to this year’s entrants and wish the festival a happy anniversary.  

Canyons Education Technology Specialist Katie Blunt, one of the coordinators of the District’s festival, made a call for the social media messages during an interview on ABC4 on Monday, April 8. 

“We wanted to make this 10th anniversary year extra special,” Blunt told anchor Emily Clark, “So we actually have a social media challenge …to get as many people as we can in Utah to wish our students luck” at the film festival.

Some of the best good-luck videos sent via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram may be shown during the awards ceremony at which the winners’ films will be shown.  Some of those films, organizers say, were filmed on cell phones.  The festival is one more way to urge students to use their phones in an educational way, not just to text friends or scroll through Instagram.

“Those phones have powerful cameras on them now,” Blunt said. “We encourage students to use those tools, either their own or some we have at school, to create films … It is exciting to see their creative side come out with this technology, instead of just getting ‘phone neck.’”

The film festival encourages students to think creatively and critically, Blunt said.  For the students who produced a film as a group, the project also helped hone communication skills. 

“There’s a lot to it,” she said.  “More than you would expect.”   

More than 300 students and teachers worked on films that have been entered the following categories:  short film, documentary, animation, public service announcemen t, newscast, and teacher film.  The top pick of a poster contest also will be announced at the ceremony.  The winning entry will be used as the publicity poster for the 2020 Canyons District Film Festival.  The nominated films can be seen on the festival's YouTube channel.
Canyons School District offers a rich variety of summer learning opportunities for students of all ages. From week-long camps that expose young children to the arts and sciences in a fun, relaxed atmosphere to online courses that allow high school students to get a head-start earning credits toward graduation, there's something for practically everyone — and at affordable prices. Individual schools also host workshops and camps. Following is a sampling of offerings. For more opportunities, check with your neighborhood schools.

Summer Semester
We get it. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to take advantage of all the learning opportunities available in high school. But through Canyons District’s Summer Semester, it’s possible for students to get a jump on their studies or free up time in their class schedule for more electives. Available this year from June 10 to June 27 are three courses that high school students are required to take in order to graduate: Exploring Computer Science, Financial Literacy, and the PE course Participation Skills and Techniques. The cost is $70 per half-credit class. Classes are taught in a blended-learning format, or through a mix of online and face-to-face classes, which are held at Mt. Jordan Middle School, 9351 S. Mountaineer Lane in Sandy. Registration opens on Monday, April 15 and runs through May 24. Spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up quickly. Beginning April 15, class times, registration and payment information will be available at http://canyonsrevrak.net.

Summer Camps
Boom! Wow! Superheroes now! Amp up your superpowers in a cartooning camp. Build a robot, become a mad scientisty, learn to code, or solve crimes in a secret agent lab. Canyons District “Community Education” summer camps are much more than fun and games. They offer students a chance to tinker and dream, build friendships and social skills, and cultivate a love for lifelong learning. Weekly camps exist for students, ages five to 14, and run from June through early August. Registration is open now and camps are filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. Weekly camp information and registration can be found at entrada.revtrak.net under “Community Education.” To view the Community Education Summer Camp catalog visit canyonsdistrict.org.

Learn to Code in Six Weeks
Interested in a career in computer science? Looking for a way to advance your studies this summer and acquire skills that will make you more employable? Apply for one of the limited spots in Canyons District's free "Learn to Code" program. In just six weeks, fromcode June 10 to July 19, participating students in grades 8-12 will learn to code in HTML, CSS, Javascript and React. The program, which is taught at Jordan High by industry experts, is even open to students who are graduating this spring. The estimated value of the training is about $4,000 and spots in the first-come, first-served program fill up fast. Interested in learning more? For registration information, visit https://www.ctsutah.com/.

Jordan High Robotics
The Jordan High Robotics squad is excited to offer two summer camps for students over the age of nine. Campers will get hands-on experience designing, building and coding a robot. No prior knowledge in robotics is required. Campers will learn essential design principles, such as, how mechanical and electrical systems work, and how to problem-solve in order to get their robot to accomplish tasks. On day four, we will have a competition, which parents are encouraged to attend. It’s a lot of fun to watch the campers work cooperatively to score points in ranking matches, and then move to elimination rounds. The camps are $120 per session, which covers snacks each day as well as a t-shirt. The two camps are June 10-13, and July 29-August 1, from 8 a.m. to noon each day. The camps will be held in the robotics room at Alta High School where we are graciously offered space and materials. Parents must provide transportation. Please address any questions by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Online registration will be available soon. A link will be provided on our website: 6411gravediggers.weebly.com.

Hillcrest High Robotics 
This camp is open to elementary and middle school-age youth interested in robot building and programming. Enrollment comes with a small fee, 90 percent of which helps pay for robot parts and costs associated with traveling to our regional competitions. Parents must provide transportation. For details, including camp dates and tuition and registration information, visit the Husky Robotics Team's website. 

Alta High Robotics
Looking for a fun summer program that builds engineering, science and math skills? Look no further than Alta High’s Robotics Camp. You don’t have to be enrolled at Alta to participate or have any prior knowledge of mechanics or programming. The camp is open to all middle- and high-school-aged students (ages nine and up). Participants in the half-day program (8 a.m. to noon) will learn wiring, programming and manufacturing techniques, and take part in competitions by using their problem-solving to beat their opponents. Two, four-day sessions are being offered in June (24-27) and August (5-8) for $120 per session. The fee covers materials, snacks and a T-shirt.  Parents must provide transportation. For more information, visit the school's robotics website. Questions? Email Ronald Strohm, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Brighton High Woodworking
Brighton High is hosting a free, one-day woodworking class where students can learn concepts in design and engineering. The program is great fun for girls and boys in grades 7-10. There are two classes to choose from: June 24 and 25. Each class runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration opens in mid-April. For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/woodclass or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Like most teenagers anxious to hit the road, sophomore Connor Perkins wants to be able to get his driver’s license as soon as he turns 16 in May. The challenge? Fitting a required Driver’s Education course into his already-packed class schedule at Hillcrest High.

The answer for Connor was the Canyons Virtual High School, Canyons District’s fully accredited high school, which provides an online class for fledgling drivers. The course outlining the rules of the road is just one of more than 60 courses, including mathematics, world languages, and social studies, that are offered through the District’s virtual high school. 

CVHS is an ideal option for high school students who want to get ahead on their credits, play catch-up because of some academic stumbles, or, like Connor, engage in such elective courses as Driver’s Education, says CVHS Technical Supervisor Julie Mayo. If your child learns well in an online format — or even if they don’t — CSD’s virtual high school may be the answer for your family, Mayo says. And it’ll be good for your pocketbook, too.

Starting this July, students no longer will be assessed a fee to take classes through CVHS. The previous charge was $35 per CVHS quarter-credit.  Click here to see the course catalogue.

In addition, this year, students, including eighth-graders, can begin the enrollment process for CVHS summer courses on May 1, with access to the coursework from within a week of enrollment to June 27.

Because the grades for these courses will be posted as part of the 2018-2019 school year, Mayo says, this could help student-athletes who need to improve their grade-point averages to be academically eligible to compete in 2019 fall sports.

A second CVHS summer session, which has never been offered before, opens July 9. This summer, during the renovation of Canyon’s headquarters, the offices for the virtual high school will be located at the old Crescent View Middle, 11150 S. 300 East. Summer testing will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the temporary offices.

Although the recommended time to complete an online course through CVHS is four weeks or less, students now will have until June 2020 to complete the work as long as they make progress on a weekly basis.  

If students are not making progress, counselors and parents will be notified and a decision will be made regarding whether CVHS is a viable option for the student.

All students who are Utah residents may enroll in CVHS.
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.
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