CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
Fillmore Central junior Brady Ristau was honored last weekend during the Minnesota State Girls Basketball AA championship game in Minneapolis as a 2017 ExCEL Award winner by the Minnesota State High School League.
CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER Fillmore Central junior Brady Ristau was honored last weekend during the Minnesota State Girls Basketball AA championship game in Minneapolis as a 2017 ExCEL Award winner by the Minnesota State High School League.
Having a student honored by the Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL Awards program is quite an accomplishment. There are only 36 juniors from across the entire state who attain this recognition each year.

Having back-to-back winners from a small, out-state school like Fillmore Central, is even that much more noteworthy.

That’s exactly what happened recently when it was announced that Fillmore Central junior Brady Ristau was one of three-dozen Minnesota high school students named to the honors program. Last year, Kiera Olson, now a senior at Fillmore Central, was named an ExCEL Award winner.

To make this story even more unique is that Brady’s older sister, Katie, won the ExCEL Award in 2010.

“Yes, having two people from one family is kind of special,” Brady said. Brady and Katie are the children of Doug and Deb Ristau of rural Preston.

“Katie was actually the one who told me I had won the award,” Brady said. “She knew I had been selected from Fillmore Central and had advanced to the state level. She was checking it out on the state website. So that’s how I found out.”

“When they announced that I had won the award in school, some of the students cheered and thought it was cool,” Brady recalled. “They knew how hard I have been working for this. Some of my close friends teased me about it, good-naturedly. They joked about it, the way buddies do that.”

ExCEL — Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership — is a unique recognition award that is given annually to high school juniors who are leaders in their schools and who demonstrate a strong commitment to community service.

And Brady certainly fits that bill. He has a grade point average (GPA) of 3.89, participates in FFA, SADD, National Honor Society, band, football, basketball, baseball and trapshooting.

When asked if it was his older sister or his parents who encouraged him to participate in all those activities, Brady replied that they might have had something to do with it. But he was quick to add, “I didn’t want to regret not doing things, being active or trying new things in high school, later on when I’m older. I think growing up on a farm, where you are always busy, might have something to do with it. I just enjoy always having something to do.”

Brady said he isn’t sure what he will study following his completion of high school at Fillmore Central next year. But it will be ag-related — possibly diesel mechanics or some type of animal-related field.

“I’ll get my degree and then I plan to return to our farm and continue working with my family,” he said.

Brady was honored this past weekend during the Minnesota State Girls Basketball AA championship game in Minneapolis. During the interview last Friday morning, Brady admitted he was kind of excited about receiving his award before the large crowd at the championship game and also the many thousands watching the televised ceremony.

“The ExCEL program fulfills the State High School League’s mission to recognize students who go beyond the classroom and the fields of competition to demonstrate leadership and community loyalty,” said Lisa Lissimore, the League associate director who oversees the award program. “Their achievements are not measured by finishing first. Rather, their achievements are gauged by what they have given back to others.”

The 2017 ExCEL award recipients are engaged in life-changing projects that build stronger, healthier and safer communities. They work voluntarily to end hunger, house the homeless, help the environment, and to raise funds for medical research. Many of these student leaders are involved in 4-H and FFA outreach activities while others coach youth sports, teach Sunday school, assist seniors, visit shelters and tutor at-risk kids.

The ExCEL award program began in 1996. Award recipients are selected through a multi-level process that involves Minnesota State High School League member schools and an independent panel of judges from schools throughout Minnesota. More than 4,000 students have been recognized with this award program.

A total of 249 students were nominated by their schools this year. Of that massive group, Brady Ristau was one of just 36 honored last weekend.