Three Austin students named scholars of distinction

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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Austin’s Ellen Ekins, Mia King, and Eeva Nelson have been named Scholars of Distinction by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Only 11 students in the state received this prestigious honor, and three of them hail from Austin.

“For the first time, three exceptional students from Austin have been honored with the Minnesota Department of Education’s Scholar of Distinction award,” said Dr. Joey Page, Austin Superintendent. “We are immensely proud of this extraordinary achievement, which sets a new standard of excellence for future scholars.” 

According to MDE’s website, the Scholars of Distinction program is meant “to recognize academic and intellectual accomplishments by talented Minnesota students that happen both in school and out of school. This program celebrates the collaboration among students and educators, as well as family and community members, that promote ongoing inquiry and the quest for new learning and new understanding of the world around us.”

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To be considered for the program, students completed a capstone project in an academic area they are passionate about. The project allows students to “exercise [their] creativity, stretch what [they] have learned, and challenge [themselves].” 

Submitted projects needed to be new academic work (not repurposed from another school assignment) and beyond the typical high school coursework. 

“The Scholars of Distinction Award program recognizes exceptional performance and achievement by students in grades 11 and 12,” said MDE’s Wendy Behrens, Scholars of Distinction Project Director. “This recognition confirms student engagement in a rigorous course of study and completion of a focused research project. To earn the award, students are required to demonstrate the ability to think critically and creatively to address a real-world problem. I have no doubt their achievements will serve as an inspiration to other students and provide a foundation for continued academic success.”

A virtual ceremony for award recipients will be held at 7 p.m. on June 20. To learn more about the Scholars of Distinction program, please visit