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GMR nominates Benke and Hlucny for ExCEL Award

Greenbush-Middle River juniors Ryan Hlucny and Ashley Benke were nominated for the ExCEL Award, a program recognizing high school juniors who are active as volunteers in their communities, hold leadership positions within their school, participate in MSHSL-sponsored activities, and perform well academically. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Greenbush-Middle River High School announced the nomination of two juniors, Ashley Benke and Ryan Hlucny, for the Minnesota State High. High School League’s ExCEL Award. ExCEL (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) is a program designed to recognize high school juniors who are active as volunteers in their communities, hold leadership positions within their school, participate in MSHSL-sponsored activities, and perform well academically.

The daughter of Dawn and Jeff Benke, Ashley Benke is active in various school activities. She participates in both the girls’ basketball program, earning academic awards every year, and the softball program. Singing in the alto section, Benke also participates in the choir, earning an outstanding section award.

Throughout her three years in high school, she has also earned her way onto either the “A” or “B” honor roll.
She is a part of the Target team, the school newspaper, The Chomper, and the school’s yearbook staff. She also represents her fellow junior classmates as Class President.

Benke also gets involved in her community, volunteering for church potlucks, Sunday School programs, and bake sales. This past fall, she also participated in the Miss Middle River Pageant, earning second runner-up and Miss Congeniality honors.

Speaking of the pageant, Benke said it was an experience that she will never forget, teaching her more about herself, as she described the pageant in her ExCEL Student Essay.

“People think pageants are all about beauty, but truly, it’s the beauty on the inside that matters,” Benke wrote in her essay. “… The pageant also raised my confidence in public speaking, appearance, and leadership skills. The reason I decided to be in the pageant is because I wanted to have the opportunity to represent my community.”

The son of Teresa and Doug Hlucny, Ryan Hlucny is active in various GMR activities, including the fine arts. As part of the music program, he has participated in band, pep band and jazz band. He also participated in solo contests on the snare drum as a sophomore, earning a Superior Rating and Best of Site Award. In band, he has also been named a section leader and earned most improved in his section.

In choir, he has played as a section pianist, and has earned most improved in his section—the tenors. He has also participated in the Fall Musical and Dinner Theater.

Academically, he has earned his way on to the “A” honor roll throughout high school.

He also has participated on the GMR Knowledge Bowl—earning All-Region Honorable Mention and the Rookie Award— and the Math League team— earning top scorer on his team and in his division. Also as part of the Math League team, he has lettered twice, earned First Team All-Conference, and advanced to state as both an individual and, last season, as a team. He was also named captain of the team this year.

Hlucny also has found success on the FIRST Robotics team as a programming team lead, and build and drive team member. As part of the team, he has lettered and earned Spotlight on Scholarship honors, and has helped guide the team to appearances in the MSHSL State Championship and World Championship. He was part of the 2018 state championship team.

As for other school participation, he is part of student council, Target team, and the National Honor Society, and peer tutors.

In the community, Hlucny also has gotten involved in different ways. He does robotics demonstrations, and has volunteered at the Benwood Community Center, his church, and in parades. He has also sang at funerals and assisted his elderly neighbor.

In January, an independent panel of judges will review applications from throughout Minnesota to select this year’s ExCEL Award recipients. Statewide winners of the twenty-fourth annual ExCEL Award will be announced on the MSHSL website on February 3, 2020 and recognized on television during the winter sports tournament season.

To see the complete story, read the January 1 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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