June 13, 2008 · Updated 10:19 AM
"The future president and a Nobel Prize winner sat in the room. So did a future genetic scientist and a best-selling author. Some of the brightest and most talented high school seniors in the area were recognized at the Federal Way Mirror Students of Distinction awards dinner Monday night at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites. These young people have the world in front of them, King County Executive and keynote speaker Ron Sims said. The only thing that can stop you is the parameters you set yourselves. These are people of unlimited possibilities. The future is in good hands. While five students walked away with $700 college scholarships, all 24 nominees were honored for their commitment, dedication and excellence in their categories. The categories were music/arts, academics, athletics and community service. I would challenge anyone in this room to look at this group and try to find the most deserving, said former Federal Way Mayor Ron Gintz, who presented the academic nominees. All of them are winners. Six students were nominated in each category, with one winner from each category. The athletics category included a male and female winner. While all nominees rise above expectations and standards in what they do, five in particular stood out from the exceptional crowd. One of those was Federal Way senior Ambreen Ali, who won the academic award. I know a few of the others I was up against, and they deserve all the recognition, Ali said. I'm honored and speechless. I thank my parents, I do it for them. Gintz was on the committee that interviewed the academic nominees and selected Ali. They're all great, well qualified and could fill the role beautifully, Gintz said. They will all succeed in what they do. It's something small that sets her apart. She had a uniqueness that really stood out. Federal Way senior Angela Pak won the community service scholarship. I came here for the food and to watch my friends, I didn't expect to win, Pak said. Hopefully other students will read this and continue to volunteer - and adults as well. Pak was selected for the scholarship because she had a long and well-rounded track record of community service, said Linda Tarr, Mirror editor and a member of the committee that selected Pak. All of these nominees were deserving, and all had accomplished great things in the community service arena. In addition to large accomplishments, Pak had a community service ethic that led her to contribute wherever she could in small ways, Tarr said. Federal Way senior Kim Winebrenner won the music and arts award. I think we were all equally qualified, Winebrenner said. I'm surprised and honored. Local actress and vocalist Patty Day was on the committee that interviewed the nominees and selected Winebrenner. The thing that stood out about Kim is she has so much passion for her music, Day said. She spoke about how she had so much joy out of being able to help in the class when she got a chance to student direct the concert ensemble. That was like an awakening to her because of the response she got back from the students, she said. She could see they got as much joy out of it as she did. She felt it, not just talked about. Jefferson senior Julia Ugarte won the scholarship for female athlete of the year and Federal Way senior Jon Manthey won for male athlete of the year. It's so close between the athletes its hard to pick one thing that sets them apart, said former Mirror sports editor Bob Coleman, who was on the athletics selection committee and founded the awards program in Federal Way six years ago. It's hard to pick one thing that stands out because they all show the same dedication, skill and competitive characteristics. Julia just impressed us slightly more, and even then it's hard to describe. Ugarte said she was honored to receive the award. This is for all the athletes who have gone through junior high and high school sports and had fun, Ugarte said. Manthey, who is running in this weekend's state track meet, thanked his parents and coaches. At this point in the season, the award just adds that much more pressure, Manthey said. It's an honor to take part in something like this. Coleman said the decision to single out one winner in the category was difficult. Although Jon concentrates on running, the weight of a state championship and being recruited for his skills by the state's two major colleges weighed a lot in our decision, Coleman said. It's always hard when you compare someone who excels in one or two sports to an all-around athlete. But for him, the level at which he competes impressed us. Five scholarships worth $500 apiece were awarded this year. An anonymous donor gave an additional $1,000 at the banquet, to be split evenly among recipients, Metropolitan King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer announced at the banquet. During the past six years of the program, $11,000 in scholarships were awarded. Last year, organizers expanded the program to include non-athletes to be recognized for their accomplishments It's nice to spread the spotlight, Coleman said. to some very deserving kids. "