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2023 ExCEL Award Winners

excel award
  • 2023-24
core value excellence

Congratulations to our ExCEL Award winners at East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools. The ExCEL Award is a Minnesota State High School League Award that recognizes juniors making satisfactory progress toward graduation, participating in a league-sponsored fine art or athletic activity, holding leadership positions in the school, and volunteering within the community. 

East Ridge

luke ryerse

Luke Ryerse is a Varsity Football and Baseball player at East Ridge High School. He is a top ranked Nation Kicker & Punter, was selected to the KARE 11 All-Metro Team, and Star Tribune First Team All-District this past football season. Last Spring Luke was a member of the 2023 State Championship Baseball team. He was the Pionerr Press East Metro Player of the year as a Sophomore and was selected to the MSHSL 4A State All-Tournament Team. Luke is a Student Athlete Advisor on the Minnesota State High School Leagues SALT leadership council. He is a member of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has earned an academic letter each semester and has been recognized as a Spotlight Scholar each semester for his outstanding work in the classroom. Luke enjoys volunteering his time coaching youth football and baseball. He started the ERHS Kicking Against Cancer fundraiser and created his own process by recruiting donors to raise $4100 for Cancer research. A favorite leadership quote of Luke’s is by Dr. King – “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly” he like this quote because everyone’s experience matters! Luke has verbally committed to attend the Univeristy of Alabama and play both Baseball and Football.

anne benjamin

Anne Benjamin is active in several school activities such as Girls Tennis, Girls Golf, Chamber Choir, National Honors Society, Key Club, Student Council and a Student Ambassador at East Ridge High School. She was one of the captains of our girls tennis team this past fall and help lead the team to the State Tournament. Anne is in our top choir, a section leader, featured soloist, honors choir and has been part of our theaters musical productions. She is highly engaged in our school community as part of our NHS board, communications chair and committees coordinator. Anne is an honors student that has earned an academic letter every semester of high school. She helps with tutoring in chmesitry and biology, along with volunteers her time to tour new families around ERHS, helps with inclusion events and outreach opportunities for our student community. Anne is a Sunday School Teacher, youth camp leader, and youth coach. Her favorite leadership quote is by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Anne feels that good leaders are inclusive, sensitive to others feelings and emotions, and ensure team members feel welcomed and valued.


hollen thompson

Park’s female recipient this year is Hollen Thompson. Hollen is a letter winner in cross country (and has been named a captain for next year) and lacrosse and also played soccer. In school she is involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, Key Club, math team, and other clubs. Thompson is also very involved in the community, volunteering at numerous church events (Sunday school, mission trips and camps) as well as at Shriners’ camps and events. She has taken many IB and AP classes, has earned Academic All-State honors in lacrosse, and has a GPA of 4.1.



sam paulsen

Sam Paulsen is Park’s male award winner. Sam is a three-sport letter winner in cross country, Nordic skiing, and track and field. He is a captain in two of his sports and participates in orchestra. Paulsen is the historian of the school’s National Honor Society and is also involved in Key Club, Link Crew, and Leaders of the Pack.  Outside of school, he volunteers as a Special Olympics coach and with his church as a Sunday and vacation bible school teacher. Sam has a full IB Diploma candidate and has a 4.2 GPA.




amalie bethke

Junior Amalie Bethke is a Woodbury High School ExCel recipient.  Amalie is highly engaged in many activities at Woodbury High School. Academically, Amalie has received Academic Honor Roll recognition during their three years in high school and was named a Student of the Tri in ninth grade. As a member of the WHS Royal Theatre Pride, Amalie has earned cast roles in every show put on by the theatre department during their high school career. Amalie was cast in 3 musicals, 2 plays, and 3 Minnesota State High School League One Act plays. As a member of the band, Amalie plays the French Horn, Mellophone, and Trumpet after switching from the saxophone in their ninth-grade year to help balance the band. Amalie was selected to be a part of the University of Minnesota Honor Band in their eleventh-grade year. As the editor of the Student Newspaper, Amalie communicates and updates our community on events and highlights student life at WHS.  As a Link Crew Leader, Amalie supports and mentors ninth graders, easing their transition into high school. IAs a Tri-M member, they continue to give back to the music community assisting and performing at various music events. Lastly, Amalie serves as a Co-President of Spanish Club.

pashin pooniwala

Junior Pashin Pooniwala is a Woodbury High School ExCel recipient. Pashin is a leader in many of the Activities he is involved with at Woodbury High School. He has received academic Honor Roll recognition in his three years of High School, as well as named a student of the Trimester in tenth grade. In the Orchestra, Pashin plays the Violin. He has been recognized as an SEC Honors Orchestra Violinist. Pashin has served as a concertmaster for the WHS Chamber Orchestra. His passion for music involves leading as a Secretary in the Tri-M Music Honors Society where he provides service opportunities for students to give back to the music community. Pashin can be found working and leading one of our many clubs at Woodbury High School. He is a National Honor Society member, chairing many events, such as the NHS Blood Drive. He serves as Secretary of the Asian American Student Association. On the Health Occupations Students of America team at WHS, Pashin has been recognized as a State Champion in Forensic Sciences in ninth grade qualifying him for the International tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. In Link Crew, Pashin serves as the Events Coordinator where he plans numerous events for our ninth graders as well as ease their way into high school.

  • High School