By Lorrie Ham
Juniors Avery Finck and Merrick Gormley 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 24th 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. 3. ExCEL winners will be recognized on KSTC-TV (Channel 45) during the broadcasts of the 2020 winter tournaments.
“Both Avery and Merrick 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, Finck is a member of the hockey, golf and tennis teams. She is a two-year letter winner and state tournament participant in hockey; a three-year letter winner, conference tournament participant and captain of the golf team; and a two-year letter winner and captain of the tennis team.
Finck is a three-year member of the “A” Honor Roll. She is also a member of National Honor Society, Student Senate and DECA, where she has competed at Internationals and serves as an officer this year. Other school activities include Rotary Interact Club and Link Crew.
Outside of the classroom, Finck is the organizer and co-founder of Rise Westonka, a unified sports and activities program where students with disabilities can get an experience playing sports and bonding with other students. She has volunteered with Feed My Starving Children for 10 years and also with the Rotary.
Finck is proud of her work with Rise Westonka. “I have personally gained so much from my experiences with Rise Westonka,” she said. “I have come to understand students with special needs so much better and have developed a passion for working with them.”
Grandview Middle School language arts teacher Julie Thomas serves as an advisor for the DECA program. “Avery’s leadership skills as a DECA officer set a high bar for her peers,” Thomas said. “Our chapter is much improved as a result of Avery’s commitment, leadership skills and positive influence.”
Avery is the daughter of Steve and Kelli Finck of Mound.
Gormley is an active member of the Westonka Bands Program, where he is section leader of the Wind Ensemble, a Jazz Band member, a three-year member of the pit orchestra for the fall musical, a member of the band council and a student director. He earned a pair of superior ratings in the solo and ensemble contest.
A three-year member of the speech team, Gormley placed fifth in the state tournament last year and was a semi-finalist in national competition. He is also a member and captain of the debate team and participated in the spring play as a ninth-grader.
Gormley has been on the “A” Honor Roll for two years. He is a member of Academic Quiz Bowl, Link Crew and National Honor Society. He also serves as a peer music teacher and mentor.
In addition to his school activities, Gormley is involved with Western Communities Action Network (WeCAN), where he volunteered for the summer kids food bag program and the school supply program. He is also a summer youth band camp instructor.
Gormley said his volunteer role at WeCAN changed his outlook on life. “I realized that I was making a real, tangible difference in people’s lives,” he said. “It inspired me to be more active in my community and dedicate more hours to such an activity.”
Band director Gretchen Chilson said Gormley has high standards for his academics and musicianship and encourages those around him to rise to his standards. “Through all his leadership roles, Merrick continues to be a humble, modest learner,” she said. “He continually strives to better himself, and provides a wonderful example for others.”
Merrick is the son of Andrea and Bob Gormley of Mound.