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An unexpected, but earned shock


On Monday, March 1, Badger High School junior Hailey VonEnde had just returned to school from a vacation and was in the school library in the morning when Badger Dean of Students Stacey Warne walked in and congratulated her on an achievement she had recently earned.

VonEnde responded, “For what?”

When she found out what Warne was talking about, she expressed her feelings in a place where people are supposed to be quiet.

“I had looked earlier, and hadn’t seen… my name right away when they first were supposed to make the announcement,” VonEnde said. “But then, obviously, they sent me an email, which I later saw. And it was amazing. I was so shocked and excited.”

It was an email from the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) telling her she was recognized as one of 36 juniors across the entire state to earn the ExCEL Award, a MSHSL award.

The Badger School was also excited about the news.

“We were thrilled to get the notice that Hailey was one of the winners,” Warne said via email. “We knew Hailey would be a very strong candidate with her strong resume in community involvement, leadership, and academic performance.”

Standing for Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership, the ExCEL award recognizes high school juniors who participate in school activities, are leaders in their schools, and display a strong committment to community service. As part of this award, nominees must also be making satisfactory progress toward graduation, according to the MSHSL website.

As for school participation, VonEnde participates in cheerleading during both the football and winter sports seasons, lettering in all of her seasons.

In both band choir, she is a section leader, playing the alto saxophone in band and singing soprano in choir. She lettered in both last year and has earned awards for solo and ensemble performances at music contests. As part of a small school choir group, she sang the National Anthem at home wrestling and girls’ basketball playoff events last school year.

She also has dedicated much time to FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America)— a big reason she feels she earned the ExCEL Award— giving her numerous volunteer and leadership opportunities.

Through FCCLA she has done much volunteer work and earned her way into some state officer positions the last two years, last year being the state secretary and this year being the state vice president of partnerships.

As part of FCCLA, individually, she has also done many school activities, spending much of her time last spring working on a project centered on promoting inclusion and positivity to elementary students. As part of this project, at the end of the year, thanks to COVID, the Badger FCCLA sent the students a video with directions for elementary students to paint or color a rock and then put a sealant spray on them.

These rocks would include animals, pictures, and words and phrases such as love, trust, and stay strong. They would be placed outside the elementary doors in the garden, representing a sense of togetherness.

“We can all be united… and accepted of each other and our differences,” VonEnde said about the meaning of the project.

Joining FCCLA in the seventh grade changed her life, VonEnde explained, giving her so much.

“It changed who I am. It made me into the person that I am today, made me become a better leader, a stronger person who’s able to get through difficulties,” VonEnde said. “And it helped make me realize who I wanted to be. And it also helped me realize that I can become that future person with the right determination and persistence.”

Academically, VonEnde has experienced success. She was inducted into the Badger National Honor Society this school year. Through this group, she has done various activities, such as assisting with blood drives and reading a Dr. Seuss book to fifth and sixth graders on Dr. Seuss Day.

Being involved in all these activities helps her stay on track.

“I know that, because I’m so busy, I need to stay on top of everything. I can’t let myself slack in any area,” VonEnde said. “And I’m somebody who’s (on the) ‘A’ honor roll every quarter. I’m very, very particular about my grades, and I put a lot of work into it because I don’t want to be somebody who isn’t giving everything 110 percent. So it helps keep me in check and helps me push to be better.”

A snapshoot of each ExCEL recipient will be aired throughout the 45TV broadcast of the girls and boys basketball state tournaments, April 6 to 10. The MSHSL will also post photographs and student profiles on One may also find this info in the April issue of MSHSL Connect, an online monthly newsletter found on the League’s website. Starting in mid-March, MSHSL will promote the ExCEL Award winners via its social media platforms. It will also feature the 2021 ExCEL Award recipients in the Girls’ State Basketball Tournament program, to be available online on March 29, according to info provided by MSHSL.

To see the complete story, read the March 10 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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