For the past 23 years, the Minnesota State High School League has honored a small group of exceptional high school juniors across the state with the ExCEL Award, which stands for Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership. Each year’s group of 36 ExCEL winners are active in high school athletics or fine arts, exhibit leadership qualities, and work voluntarily in their communities. This year two STMA students received this award: Gracelyn Riedel and Kyle Swenson.
Riedel and Swenson received a certificate and recognition by the school board at a meeting earlier this month, and all 36 winners were recently recognized at half time of the Girls AA State Basketball game, along with at other state-level MSHSL events.
Activities Director Keith Cornell said the pair have donated hundreds of hours of their time to volunteer in areas they feel passionate about.
“And when I say hundreds, I mean hundreds and hundreds of hours,” Cornell said. “Congrats to both of you, and thanks for all you do for STMA.”
Gracelyn has dedicated her time to working with underprivileged children through her church and on mission trips. In addition to that, she is also on the soccer and golf teams, managed the Riverhawk’s hockey team, and is part of National Honor Society, Student Council and myriad other school and church activities. She focuses a lot of her volunteer energy on combatting hunger, with time spent helping at Feed My Starving Children, Thrivent Financial Meal Boxes and serving food at the Grace Place.
“She is a positive presence everywhere she goes,” Cornell said.
Swenson is an active volunteer with CycleHealth, an organization dedicated to changing the cycle of health in America starting with the country’s youth. All through his high school career he has been on their advisory committee, served as a spokesperson and volunteered at events. Swenson is also involved in cross country, swimming, track & field, and concert choir at the high school, and he’s part of this year’s Drug Free banner program at the high school, among other activities.
“He’s very involved in our school, and is an outstanding student,” Cornell said of Swenson.
“They are great role models in the community and in school, and it really does make a difference,” Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said.