Every year Minnesota schools nominate students who have strived to help their community through athletics or the fine arts and through volunteer service for the Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL award. This year, juniors Halle Bemmels and Zach Berndt were chosen from their classmates to represent Le Sueur-Henderson High School.
Bemmels has participated in athletics like volleyball, basketball and softball, music in both band and choir, and taken on leadership roles through student council, the National Honor Society and starting a Christian Athletes Fellowship. Berndt has acted as a leader on and off the field as a member of the football, basketball and baseball teams while spending his time volunteering with organizations like the National Honor Society.
We sat down with these accomplished students after their nominations.
How does it feel to be nominated by your school for the ExCEL award?
Bemmels: “I think it’s a really big honor. We have a great class. Our classmates are awesome people who are always out serving and it’s great to do it with them. It’s an honor to represent our school.”
Berndt: “It’s an honor to be chosen from our class because we do have a lot of really good classmates, so to be the two chosen out of it, I was really proud of that.”
How have you involved yourself with the school?
Bemmels: “For me, it’s been trying to get involved in every area I can. I just want the school to reach it’s full potential and I want kids to have a good experience here, so being involved in things like student council and NHS, I think it makes the school a better place and I like being involved in that stuff.”
Berndt: “We’ve been in sports, I’ve been in sports for as long as I can remember and then volunteering has been really big in the last couple years ever since I got into high school. I’ve never really volunteered before I started with them and I’ve actually done a lot with those guys and that’s been really eye-opening and has changed my views on stuff like school, volunteering and being helpful.”
What have you learned through your participation in school athletics, activities and volunteering?
Bemmels “People always talk about their purpose in the world and I think being involved has given me a purpose right here in school, right here everyday to give back to the school, to give back to my teammates gives you purpose just to be there with them.”
Berndt: “Sports has made me through I am in a way because I’ve learned so much from it and through the experiences. With volunteering, we haven’t done a lot when we were younger but more recently its helped me in this stage of my life as a teenager being in high school. I think it’s helped develop and grow into being a better person, like the best person you can be. I think that’s what volunteering has done, but sports has molded me onto the path that I’m down now.”
Bemmels: “I think especially the athletic part of it, it’s built character. Like the responsibility in being involved in all those things, it builds you.”
Is there a set of experiences that stands out to you or stays with you when you think about your involvement in activities?
Bemmels: “I started a fellowship of Christian athletes, which we used to have at the school, but I brought it back with help from my softball coach Eric Lewis and I think it’s been so cool to see how many kids have wanted to get involved with that and I think it’s a thing that unites the athletes together.”
Berndt: “I think that through all my sporting and volunteering, it’s easy to be in high spirits when you’re winning, but my team’s haven’t always been blessed with success. We have faced quite a bit of losing. Through that, I’ve realized that you need to make the best out of what you’re dealt and even though in football we didn’t have the greatest seasons, I think always trying to find the positives even if your team hasn’t, I think that’s been a way to keep everybody positive. It translates now because even after losses, we don’t take it as hard so we can readjust and it’s easier to be friends rather than be so upset with each other, so I think it has been fun to see how we all react to stuff differently.”