Hess earns statewide award
Owatonna junior Ava Hess said she was completely surprised when she learned she’d been nominated for the Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (ExCEL) Award, which recognizes high school juniors who are model citizens in their communities, who are active in fine arts and/or athletic activities and who demonstrate leadership qualities. She added that she’d be a lot more shocked if she was selected as one of the award winners.
“If I were to win the award, I would be 100 times more surprised than I was when Mr. Achterkirch called me about the nomination,” she said in December.
Her prognostication proved to be accurate as she was stunned when she found out in early February that she was selected as one of the 2021 ExCEL Award recipients.
“I was completely shocked, and still am,” Hess said. “My physical reaction was to immediately slap my hand over my mouth. I could not believe that I was chosen. I did not expect to be nominated in the first place, and receiving the news that I had won was so surprising and unreal. I am very proud to represent the Owatonna school district and community.”
One reason receiving this award surprised her is because every Minnesota State High School League member school can nominate one junior male and one junior female, but only 36 juniors from across the state are chosen to receive this honor.
In addition to being one of only a select group of people selected for this award, Hess said winning this award was special to her because she’s long admired those who have been recognized as ExCEL Award nominees.
“Being one of the recipients of this award is such an unbelievable honor. I have looked up to all of the students who have been nominated in the past. It is very humbling to know that I may give a similar impression to others in the future,” Hess said.
One way she’s a role model to younger students is by showing them that they can be involved in the community and a lot of extracurricular activities and still be a dedicated student.
“Being involved in many different activities as well as school requires a lot of planning. If it weren’t for my planner and calendar, it would be hard to keep track of everything. Organization is a key factor to being involved in many activities,” she said. “It is a delicate balance and I am very aware of it.”
Hess is also aware that although this is an individual honor she wouldn’t have become so involved in the community, such an active student and a strong leader without the help of her parents.
“They have always pushed me to be the best I can be, and through that I have learned how to balance all the activities I love doing. They also have taught me many lessons on how to be kind and helpful, which has contributed to me leading by example,” she said.
Even though she’ll graduate high school in a year and a half, she plans to continue to stay devoted to her hometown.
“I will always be committed to the Owatonna community, fine arts and athletics and leadership award or no award,” she said. “I will always try to do my best to help others.”