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Isaac Hays and Stella Miner

Hays and Miner Named ExCEL Award Winners

By Lorrie Ham, 12/14/23, 1:00PM CST


Juniors Isaac Hays and Stella Miner have been selected as the Mound Westonka High School recipients of the Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL Award.

Isaac Hays and Stella Miner

2023-24 ExCEL Award winners Isaac Hays and Stella Miner

Juniors Isaac Hays and Stella Miner have been selected as the Mound Westonka High School recipients of the Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL Award. 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, show leadership qualities and demonstrate a strong commitment to community service.

This is the 27th year that the League has sponsored the ExCEL Award. An independent panel of judges from schools throughout Minnesota will select state ExCEL Award recipients in January, and award winners will be announced via the League website on Feb. 6.

“Isaac and Stella are great students and outstanding representatives of our school,” said Westonka Activities Director Jeff Peterson. “Congratulations and good luck to them as they move on to the state level of competition.”

Isaac Hays

Hays is a three-sport athlete, competing for MWHS on the cross-country, Nordic ski, and track and field teams. He has earned multiple awards, including All Conference Honorable Mentions, Hardest Worker, Rookie of the Year, and MVP.

Hays has been involved in the band program for three years and served on the band council. He also performed with the pit orchestra in the fall musical. He is a member of the National Honor Society. Hays is also co-leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has attended FCA leadership camp for two years.

Outside the classroom, Hays has volunteered with the Westonka Food Shelf, Westonka Community Garden, and Westwood Community Church, where he worked in kids’ ministry, tech ministry, and the infrastructure team.

One of his most meaningful volunteer experiences was a mission trip to the Los Angeles Dream Center, which he says was a launching point for his “leadership and servant’s heart for others.”

When handing out food in LA’s skid row, Hays saw heart-breaking suffering, but he was surprised by how many people still showed joy. “This really struck home for me and taught me to look for the good in any situation and not let the bad consume oneself,” he said.

Hays chose a verse from the Bible as his favorite leadership quote. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” Hays said, “the best leaders are those who are willing to lower themselves to the point of serving those they are leading.”

Isaac is the son of Dan and Jenny Hays of Minnetrista.

Stella Miner

Miner is a three-year member of Student Senate, where she serves as the communications officer. She is a three-year member of DECA, a two-time international qualifier, and an officer. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, where she led a collection drive for Western Communities Action Network (WeCAN), and a Link Crew member.

Miner is a three-sport athlete, competing in soccer, Nordic ski racing, and track and field. She is assistant captain of the Nordic team. In fine arts, her visual art was selected for the fall art show.

Outside the classroom, Miner is a member of Rotary, and has volunteered with WeCAN, the Loppet Foundation, and her church. She is also proud of her work with Like a Girl, a career development project for women that she runs with her sister.

“I have been able to teach over 50 girls about different careers and how they can become successful, even setting up a mentor program between the girls and professional women,” said Miner. While the experience has benefited others, it has also boosted her own confidence. She hopes to continue this project by establishing it as a non-profit organization.

Miner’s favorite leadership quote comes from Nelson Mandela. “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” Miner added, “a leader sees that focusing on appearing as the most important or powerful will eventually distract from their main purpose; guiding others when they cannot guide themselves.”

Stella is the daughter of Stephanie and James Miner of Minnetrista.