By Lorrie Ham
Juniors Chloe Kantola and Connor Prok 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 are model citizens.
This is the 23rd 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. 4. ExCEL winners will be recognized on KSTC-TV (Channel 45) during the broadcasts of the 2019 winter tournaments.
“Both Chloe and Connor 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.”
A three-sport athlete, Kantola is in her third year on the White Hawks volleyball team, where she has earned three Spotlight on Scholarship Awards and two White Hawk Awards. She is also a three-year member of the softball team, where she earned three Spotlight on Scholarship Awards, a White Hawk Award and two All-Conference Honorable Mentions. On the hockey team, Kantola earned a Spotlight on Scholarship Award and was named Most Improved. She also earned a Spotlight on Scholarship Award in her year on the basketball team.
Kantola is a three-year member of the “A” Honor Roll and carries a 4.0 grade point average. She has also spent three years in Math League and DECA, where she was a state finalist last year. Other school activities include Rotary Club, Student Senate, Link Crew, Homecoming Committee, Prom Committee, Sadies Committee and Harbor Group.
Outside of the classroom, Kantola has volunteered at the Community Tree Lighting, Feed My Starving Children, the Westonka Color Run and Presbyterian Homes. She is involved in her church youth group and has participated in several mission trips, including a trip to Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
On being a leader, Kantola says that there are certain qualities that make leaders who they are. “Hard work, dedication, organization, sympathy, morality and mental toughness are all characteristics that factor into leadership,” she said.
Teacher and coach Bob Kuehl has known Kantola since she was in seventh grade. “She is one of the true leaders of our school who really puts her heart and soul into so many of our programs and activities,” Kuehl said.
Chloe is the daughter of Kari and Kevin Kantola of Minnetrista.
Prok is an active member of the Westonka Bands program, where he is section leader of the percussion section in the Wind Ensemble. He earned a superior rating in the solo and ensemble contest and was named to the St. Thomas University Honors Band and is a nominee for the Wright County Conference Honor Band. He is a three-year member of the Band Council and a member of the pit orchestra for the fall musical. He also serves as a student director.
A three-year member of the basketball team, Prok has earned a pair of Spotlight on Scholarship Awards. He represented Mound Westonka in sections last year on the track and field team, where he earned two Spotlight on Scholarship Awards and was named Most Improved. He has earned three letters in Strength and Conditioning and earned a Spotlight on Scholarship Award during his year on the football team.
Prok has been on the “A” Honor Roll for three years. He is a member of Student Senate, Link Crew, SADD and National Honor Society. He has served on both the Principal’s Advisory Group and the Vice Principal’s Advisory Group.
In addition to his school activities, Prok is involved with his church youth group, nursing home visits, yard work assistance to the elderly, teaching youth bike riding and tutoring.
On leadership, Prok said, “The usage of a strong and directive mindset, the ability to listen and interpret others, and the willingness to take risks out of one’s comfort zone are important qualities of a leader,” he said.
Band Director Gretchen Chilson said, “Connor is talented, responsible, dependable and hard-working. He has set high standards for his academics, athletics and musicianship, and he encourages those around him to rise to his standards.
Connor is the son of Jeanne and Christopher Prok of Mound.