Waconia High School juniors Ella Schluck and Luke Koschinska have been named the school’s 2024 recipients of the ExCEL Award. Sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League, ExCEL (Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership) is a unique recognition program designed exclusively for high school juniors. Students who are active in fine arts and/or athletic activities, who show leadership qualities, and who are model citizens are eligible for the award. To be eligible for the ExCEL Award, students must: be a junior in high school; make satisfactory progress toward graduation requirements; participate in a League-sponsored fine arts and/or athletic activity; hold a leadership position in their school; work voluntarily in their community; and meet MSHSL General Eligibility Requirements.
Schluck is in the middle of her third year on the varsity girls hockey team, where she is a captain and one of the team’s leading scorers. During her high school career she has also participated in soccer, track and field, and softball. She is an accomplished pianist and teaches lessons at the Waconia Music Studios. She played percussion in the Waconia Middle School Band and also plays the ukulele and harmonica. Schluck is a member of the National Honor Society, the WHS Student Council, and the Conservation Club. In the community, Schluck has volunteered for the Waconia Hockey Association, at the Ridgeview Pediatric Clinic and at New Perspectives Assisted Living/Memory Care. In the classroom, Ella takes a full slate of advanced placement and concurrent enrollment classes and currently has a 4.0 GPA.
“Ella portrays her positivity and leadership qualities by allowing others to feel heard,” said Waconia High School teacher and assistant girls hockey coach Colleen Stanley. “She not only leads by example but also allows others to demonstrate their abilities. Ella is well-loved and admired by her peers. In the classroom, this is shown through collaboration with classmates. As a teammate, Ella encourages others to do their best and is selfless with her actions.”
Koschinska is in the middle of his second year on the varsity boys hockey team, recently finished his second year participating in cross country running, and will play baseball this spring. He is a member of the National Honor Society, has taken a number of advanced placement courses, and maintains a 3.9 GPA. In the community, Koschinska has volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, at the community outdoor hockey rink, youth hockey camps, youth baseball tryouts, and has helped lead elementary faith formation classes at his church.
“I fondly remember Luke quickly establishing himself as a leader in my classroom,” Waconia High School teacher Kathryn Kurtz said. “He immediately stood out to me as a great listener and thinker as he would answer questions readily and ask thoughtful questions that demonstrated independent thought and creativity. He is a positive leader in and out of the classroom. He is kind, responsible, friendly, and clearly has the inner drive to bring his best o everything he does.