Cassidy Hoffmann and Landon Strong at SEHS, and Gabby Helget and John Luu Mathiowetz at St. Mary's are the schools' nominees for the ExCEL Award.

Sleepy Eye High School announced that Cassidy Hoffmann and Landon Strong are the school’s nominees for the ExCEL Award. St. Mary’s High School nominees are Gabby Helget and John Luu Mathiowetz. These students are entered in the Minnesota State High School League’s annual ExCEL competition.

ExCEL—Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership—is a unique recognition program designed exclusively for Minnesota high school juniors who are active in school activities, who show leadership qualities, and who work voluntarily in their community.

The ExCEL Award recipients will be selected by an independent panel of judges from schools throughout Minnesota. Each recipient will be recognized on KSTC-TV (Channel 45) during the broadcasts of the 2018 winter tournaments.

Landon Strong is very busy with athletics and school events. He has served as class president every year since seventh grade and his class advisor said he presents himself as a positive role model for younger students. She also said Landon is determined to exceed in his studies and help those around him do the same.

School athletic activities that Landon is involved in are football, FFA trapshooting, hockey, baseball and track. He is also active in other areas of FFA, has been on the Knowledge Bowl team, serves on Student Council and is a member of the Honor Society. Landon has volunteered for food shelf collections, the school blood drive and packing Food for Kidz.

Cassidy Hoffmann is very busy with FFA and 4-H activities and still finds time to play volleyball and be a football cheerleader at Public School. She is an A Honor Roll student and member of the Yearbook staff and the Honor Society. Cassidy’s class advisor said she takes her studies seriously and with all her activities, demonstrates to younger students that it is possible to be involved and also do well in school.

Through her involvement in FFA, 4-H and school organizations, Cassidy spends many hours volunteering in the community—from teaching farm safety to kids, to packing Food for Kidz, to enjoying time and involvement with local senior citizens.

John Luu Mathiowetz enjoys playing football, basketball and baseball at St. Mary’s High School. He is also in the concert and pep bands and sings, dances and acts in school musicals. John has served on Student Council and is a member of the Honor Society. He is active in church as a Mass Server and also helps the St. Mary’s Catering Ladies sometimes.

John said he always liked to help with Food for Kidz, and realizes now as a high school student that he has a role as a leader, helping younger kids do the job right. He said the organization really hits home for him. “I am originally from Vietnam, a country where food is scarce . . . when packing these meals, I think about the children in my home country and pray that they are benefiting from a wonderful organization like Food for Kidz. John’s supervisor at his On the Job Training position at Sleepy Eye Medical Center said he is impressed by John’s attitude, demeanor and genuine care for the well being of others.

Gabby Helget is a student on the move—keeping active in volleyball, football cheerleading, basketball, softball and dancing and singing in school musicals. She is also in the concert and pep bands. An A Honor Roll student, Gabby “works diligently to achieve high grades, complete work accurately and be thorough in her work,” said one of her teacher, who also commented on her leadership qualities, which serve as an excellent example for her peers.

Gabby is on the Knowledge Bowl, Math, and YES! teams. She serves on Student Council and is a member of the Honor Society. She is an active volunteer in church—Mass Server, youth group and more; with elementary sports and other community events, such as Food for Kidz, which she says has been a benefit to herself as well as others. Gabby said packing the meals is “an honor to take a day out of my life to make someone’s day just a little brighter.”

All four students were asked how they balance all the activities with school work. Cassidy uses a planner and John uses the organizer feature on his phone. Gabby said she prioritizes what comes first. Landon said, “My parents make me do academics first; I worry about sports later and then fit volunteers stuff in between.” They all said it was an honor to be nominated by their school for the ExCEL Award, echoing a common theme of, “it’s nice to be recognized for hard work.”