By Lorrie Ham
Juniors Sam Senneka and Audrey Woychick have been selected as the Mound Westonka High School recipients of Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL Award. ExCEL—Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership—is a unique recognition program designed exclusively for the state’s high school juniors who are active in school activities, show leadership qualities and are model citizens.
This is the 21st year that the Minnesota State High School League has sponsored the ExCEL Award. An independent panel of judges from schools throughout Minnesota will select the state ExCEL Award recipients in January, and the award winners will be announced via the League website on Feb. 6. ExCEL winners will be recognized on KSTC-TV (Channel 45) during the broadcast of the 2017 winter tournaments.
“Both Sam and Audrey are outstanding leaders and great students who are highly involved in school activities and our community,” said Westonka Activities Director Jeff Peterson. “Congratulations and good luck as they move on to the state level of competition.”
Senneka is a three-year member of the auditioned Wind Ensemble. He earned superior ratings in both solo and ensemble contest. In addition to being a section leader in the Wind Ensemble, he is a three-year member of the Jazz Band and performs with a sax quartet. He also represented his school in the Minnesota Ambassadors of Music European tour.
As a two-year member of the White Hawks track team, Senneka earned two Spotlight on Scholarship Awards. He also commits 20 hours per week to gymnastics and has competed at the state level, earning gold, silver and bronze awards.
Senneka is a three-year member of the “A” honor roll. He is a member of Link Crew and has earned two Distinguished Student awards.
Outside of the classroom, Senneka is involved with his church in the nursery and in the praise band. His church youth group volunteers at local food shelves and participates in the Sleep Out for Homelessness. He also volunteers at Feed My Starving Children.
“There are many good qualities that make a good leader,” said Senneka. “These qualities include leading by example, listening to others and being a team player. It also means being confident in the decisions you make, taking ownership for your mistakes and giving credit where credit is due.”
Band director Gretchen Chilson called Senneka a talented, responsible and hard-working student. “Sam is very involved in our community,” she said. “He has set very high standards for his academics, athletics and musicianship, and encourages those around him to rise to his standards.”
Chilson added, “He is a ‘servant leader’ who consistently does the right thing, even when it would be easier to follow the crowd or let someone else take on the ‘leader’ role.”
Sam lives in Mound and is the son of Mary Senneka and Skip Senneka.
Woychick is a three-sport athlete, participating in cross country, Nordic skiing and track and field. She also participated in soccer as a freshman. She was named Most Improved in track and Rookie of the Year in both Nordic skiing and cross country. She also co-captains the Nordic ski team and earned Spotlight on Scholarship awards in each of the four sports.
In the Wind Ensemble, Woychick is a section leader and a member of the band council and public relations committee. She earned a superior rating at contest.
Woychick is a three-year member of the “A” honor roll. She is an officer and state competitor in DECA. She participates in Math League and is a member of National Honor Society and is a Link Crew leader.
In addition to her school activities, Woychick has volunteered in multiple community activities, including the Dakota Trail cleanup, Hilltop Octoberfest, Gillespie Center winter shopping, Winterblast, Toys for Tots and the Westonka Food Shelf. She also served as a group leader on mission trips to Guatemala.
“When I went on my first mission trip to Guatemala, it changed my life,” said Woychick. “The mission, and most importantly, the people of Guatemala, changed what I wanted to do with my life. They helped change my morals and my way of life. I now always put others first and my needs second. I want to keep volunteering as much as I can so that I can live a life devoted to helping others.”
“As her band director for the past seven years, I have been fortunate to see Audrey’s leadership skills grow,” said Chilson. “With her multiple activities, she is often faced with difficult scheduling conflicts, which she always handles thoughtfully and with maturity to benefit all parties involved.”
Audrey is the daughter of Carrie and Ted Woychick of Mound.