From AP Classes to Track Practice, These Outstanding High School Students Pack a Lot into One Day

A look at some of the St. Croix Valley’s outstanding high school seniors.
L to R: Ethan Lo, Hudson High School; Maddie Wilkinson, St. Croix Preparatory Academy; Cecelia Peterson, Stillwater Area High School.

Beginning with our August 2015 issue and continuing annually, St. Croix Valley Magazine will celebrate a select group of accomplished high school students who are entering their senior year. Chosen by their school principals and advisors, these young men and women are excelling in the classroom, the arts, our community and on the playing field. Behind every hardworking student—these Prep Elite students as well as countless others in our community—is a team of people who encourage and support them to be the best they can be. When we reached out to this outstanding group of students from the Class of 2016, this is what they said as they prepare to embark on their senior year of high school.

Jacob Hoppe
St. Croix Preparatory Academy

Activities: Football, track

Favorite class:

“[During] a football game in my junior year, [when I realized] how much of a family that my team really was, and the sacrifices we were all willing to make for each other.”

Influential person:
“My grandpa. He taught me the values of hard work and how to be down to earth through common sense and strong morals. He taught me to value family before everything and that success can be achieved through whatever makes you happy.”

After graduation:
The Air Force Academy and U.S. military

Key to success:
“I think my key to success has been that I work hard to accomplish my goals. I always strive to complete more and be successful at anything I do.”

(Photo courtesy of Soren Schwendeman)

Soren Schwendeman
St. Croix Preparatory Academy

Activities: National Honor Society, NAHS (secretary), newspaper, jazz band, a capella group, band council, track, cross country, soccer (captain), ski club, private piano and guitar studies

Favorite Class:
AP language/composition

“Last April, I received an Outstanding Soloist Award for guitar improvisation with the school jazz band for the third year in a row at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. Each year, winning this award has boosted my confidence and my passion for jazz guitar and music in general, and ultimately pushed me to become a better musician.”

“My grandfather, Kenan Heise. He’s always been an inspiring and supporting presence in my life, encouraging me to pursue my passions and education. He recently asked me to write music for his newest play, which he hopes to put on in Chicago next summer.”

After graduation:
Pursue a degree in social sciences and perhaps macroeconomics. “I hope to make a living in a city while making a difference in the world.”

Key to success:
“Both my parents value education. I was always taught to enjoy learning and getting better at things, so it seemed obvious that I should put forth my best effort in school, and that’s what I’ve done. By striving to succeed in school and elsewhere, I’m opening doors to a bright future.”

Cecelia Peterson
Stillwater Area High School

Activities: Cross country running, Nordic skiing, soccer, National Honor Society, Key club, orchestra, intramural volleyball

Favorite class: Spanish

“Placing third at state this year with my ski team. We worked really hard and are a really tight-knit team, which makes it much more fun.”

After Graduation:
Pursuing a teaching degree at college and possibly teach English abroad.

Key to Success:
“My teachers! So many of my teachers have been really kind and also funny, which makes classes enjoyable. Also, I think I’m really lucky to go to such a good school with so many opportunities, and I try to take advantage of that.”

Rachel Ecker
Hudson High School

S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions), mock crash, Student to Student, M.A.C. (Make a Change), T.A. for a kindergarten class at Hudson Prairie Elementary School, T.E.C. (Teens Encounter Christ) and cashier at R.J. Meats.

Favorite class: “The Holocaust, because it was a very important part of our history and was interesting to learn about [and] the teacher was awesome.”

Memory: Prom, the mock crash, and holiday choir concerts—“sharing the joy of singing with the community.”

Influential person:
“My grandpa, Tom Evenson. He was very involved within our community, especially with the youth of Hudson. He loved helping people, he was kind, loving and someone who I strive to be. One of the things he taught me, which I will never forget, was if someone doesn’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean that they are wrong and you are right.”

After Graduation: Pursuing a college degree

Key to success: “Good study habits, always work hard. Also having parents and a sister who are willing to help me understand things if I have questions.”

Tim Koenning

Stillwater Area High School

Activities: Cross country running, track, intramural basketball, drums

Favorite class:

Memory: “Racing in the state True team track meet. I especially remember this night because I was in the 3,200 m, one of the last events, under the lights on my home track with the best competitors I had ever faced. I ran a personal best by 15 seconds and was Stillwater’s top finisher that night.”

Influential person: “Scott Christensen [science teacher]. On top of spending every day with him for most of the past four years, Scott is a huge influence because of his ability to tell things like they are and inspire you to compete well in whatever it is you’re doing.”

After graduation: After college, pursue a law or political science degree in graduate school

Motivation: “It derives from internal pressures I put on myself to excel in what I do. I like to challenge myself to improve on whatever it is I’m working on, and this highly motivates me.”

Ethan Lo

Hudson High School

Activities: Varsity soccer, varsity track and field, forensics club, DECA vice president, student council junior president

Favorite class: Chemistry

Memory: “The first day of junior year, I was asked to give a speech as class president. I was totally unprepared and my speech was a measly 30 seconds long, where I pretty much just said my name, position and thanked everyone. Although embarrassing at the time, I look back now and laugh at it.”

Influential person:
“My dad. As long as I can remember, he has supported me in any endeavor I have chosen to take on. He has also shown me the importance of values such as compassion and hard work through the way he has led his own life.”

After graduation:
“I want to be pursuing a career path that allows me to better the lives of others on a large scale, while working to develop new, innovative technology to [benefit] society.”

Key to success:
“If you want to succeed in anything, the first step is believing that you can.”

Stephen Wagner
Stillwater Area High School

Activities: Baseball, football, weight lifting, volunteer work

Favorite class:
AP U.S. history—“It felt like a college class and Mr. Kaul made it interesting and funny.”

Memory: “Playing varsity [during the 2014 football season] was the most exciting time that I’ve experienced.”

After graduation: “Pursue my dream job, whatever that may be.”

Influential person: “My father. His outlook on life and the value [he places on] work and ethics have taught me many things.”

Maddie Wilkinson
St. Croix Preparatory Academy

Activities: Soccer, archery, secretary of student council, classical piano, violin, National Honor Society, NAHS, MathCounts

Favorite class: Physics

Memory: “The Italy trip that my school offers was one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life, let alone my high school years. Last summer, about 20 of SCPA’s juniors and seniors went to Venice, Florence, Rome, and many other smaller cities and towns. The food, the art and architecture, and the fascinating history, along with a wonderful group of friends, all made for an absolutely fantastic trip.”

Influential person:
“My mom. She’s always helped steer me in the right direction when I make decisions and she’s been an amazing example of strength and perseverance for me to follow for the rest of my life.”

After graduation: Pursuing a degree in computer science and neuroscience.

“I am motivated to learn and to do my best. I love to figure things out and to excel, and those two things combined have helped me to succeed in school.”