Grace beat 12 other girls to go to regionals and represent Hinckley-Finlayson High School at the Minnesota State High School League 2021 Triple 'A'.

Grace Balut and Brady Johnson were chosen to compete for Hinckley-Finlayson High School for the Minnesota State High School League 2021 Triple ‘A’.

The students need to excel in three categories, academics, arts and athletics, said Cheryl Bjerke, athletic director.

The applications include opportunities for the students to expand on their experiences in each category. 

Johnson wrote about his leadership abilities and his experiences being a role model. 

Balut chose to go into greater detail of her experiences, including the activities she has been involved with from coordinating several blood drives to playing the trumpet for the high school band and at church.

“The main aspect that I truly enjoy about the fine arts is its ability to allow me to connect deeply to what feels like a different realm of academic existence,” Balut wrote.

Members of the school staff wrote a letter of recommendation for each student. 

After listing Baluts accomplishments as a student, Karlajean Becvar, an English teacher, spoke about her personality.

“In the years I have known her and throughout her high school experience, Grace is a kind, caring and passionate young woman,” Becvar wrote. “Grace sees the good in everyone and every situation.”

Ben Vickstrom, Johnson’s social studies teacher, stressed his strong work ethic and desire to keep improving himself.

“For two years I have had Brady in my social studies classes where he leads class discussion, keeps peers on task with reminders and leads by example with an unparalleled work ethic,” Vickstrom wrote. He added that Johnson has the ability to balance many leadership roles and school work simultaneously. He also participated in sports and band.

The final question on the application asks how involvement in the activities helped the student grow as a person. 

“My involvement through extracurriculars has provided me with recognition of the importance of individuality,” wrote Balut. “To better explain, as a teenager it’s almost too easy to get caught up in the routine, to be measured by how good your stats look, how well you played your solo, or even if you got an A on the test. These things tend to define some students, but I am a firm believer that that is rather nowhere remotely close to the truth. For what is the satisfaction of success if you’re simply able to notice solely the material, rather than yourself?” She added that from her perspective her achievements are not in the trophies but in her personal virtues that helped her attain the achievements. 

In a normal year, the students and their families attend the competitions in person, explained Bjerke. She said this year the judges relied on the information provided in the applications. 

Balut moved into the regional competition ahead of 12 other students. She did not move onto state.

“It’s all because I do what I love and love what I do,” Balut said.


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