Austin, Pacelli students honored for academic excellence at Hormel hosted luncheon

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

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Over 80 students from Austin Public Schools and Pacelli Catholic Schools were treated to a special Honor Roll Lunch Thursday to honor their academic achievements.

The event, which has been going on for years now, was hosted by Hormel Foods Corps for ninth-grade through seniors who have achieved a 4.0 grade point average.

In total, 88 students took part in Thursday’s lunch.

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“It’s a great opportunity to get an impressive group together,” said Jim Snee, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer for Hormel during a short presentation Thursday, adding later: “It’s a testament to all your hard work and success.”

As part of the presentation, five students were honored for attending the lunch for four straight years and included Nawras Zaki, Rose Garry, Ellen Ekins, Mackenzie Andrews and Grace Anderson.

“It means a lot to me that Hormel would do this thing for us students and give us motivation to be our best,” said Anderson, who is going to South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota next year. “It’s amazing that so many people put in the work to get good grades and just try to be the best students they can be.”

“It really encourages me to try and get those good grades,” she added.

It’s not an achievement to be taken lightly, said Austin High School Principal Matt Schmit, who explained that there is often a conception that for students who make high marks, the work comes easy.

It’s much more than that, he said.

“It’s so hard,” Schmit said. “There are so many temptations of, ‘I could go out with friends or watch a movie.’ Some of those things they’ve had to say ‘no’ to and make a commitment to what they thought was important. It’s not a one day thing. It’s repeated behavior day after day of picking the right decision.”

However, that right decision can have positive consequences for other students, both peers and younger students.

During her speech Thursday, Pacelli junior Kirsten Koopal alluded to that as well and how impressive of an achievement it was for all the students gathered.

“I think it’s important to realize we’re not in it alone and that we do have other people that also strive and work through the same goals,” Koopal said. “The students here today show the younger kids how they should be in school, too. How holding yourself to a higher standard can lead to good things.”

Like Schmit at AHS, those achievements stand out to administrators like Interim Pacelli Principal and science teacher Robyn Bickler, who sees events like the Honor Roll Lunch as a way to highlight students who hold those higher standards.

“It’s a wonderful way to recognize them for their hard work outside of the classroom because it really does mean a lot of hours they put in,” Bickler siad. “The little extras that get them to the point where they can reach that 4.0.”

These types of events can also be supportive of the broader community as highlighted by Snee. That includes recognizing the scholastic hard work that goes into achieving a 4.0 GPA.

But it also brings attention to what is in our own community and opens a route for students to return and work where they grew up.

“It’s always nice to recognize academic success,” Snee said. “We’re quick to recognize other forms of social success. I don’t think we do enough of this for our student population, so it’s great for us to have the opportunity to do it.”

“It’s also a great opportunity to remind them just what’s in their backyard and sometimes we take that for granted or they just don’t know,” he added.