MARSHALL - Each year, the Minnesota State High School League recognizes exceptional high school seniors, those who have excelled in academics, arts and athletics throughout their high school career. The Triple "A" winners typically possess solid leadership skills both in and out of the classroom. Basically, they're very dedicated and busy individuals.
Marshall High School's 2014 Triple "A" award winners - Jessica Oaxaca and Ryan Schultz - seem to fit the mold extremely well. Both are involved in numerous fine arts and athletic activities while still maintaining a high academic status.
"I guess I never really noticed that anyone else noticed that I was doing all this stuff," Oaxaca said. "It's kind of nice. I like staying busy. I go a little crazy if I'm not busy. Like during Christmas break, it was nice to have some alone time and relaxation time, but at the end, I was ready to go do something. I get jittery and want to put my energy into something."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall High School seniors Ryan Schultz and Jessica Oaxaca were nominated for the 2014 Triple “A” Award, which recognizes students in academics, the fine arts and athletics.
Oaxaca has been actively involved in marching band, speech, Business Professionals of America, Link Crew, track, volleyball, peer helpers and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
"Over time, I've favored different activities," she said. "My freshman year, I favored track over speech. But that changed over time. I'm now into speech more than track. That's more where my focus is now."
Last year, Oaxaca earned first-place honors in the state speech competition. As the volleyball team's manager the past two years, she also received two gold medals for the Tigers' winning effort at the state tournament.
"Jessica has earned tremendous accolades in the Fine Arts on our MHS speech team," Rick Purrington said in a letter of recommendation for Oaxaca. "Her advancement to the MSHSL State Speech Tournament in 2012 and her MSHSL State Championship in 2013 show her immense talent in the Fine Arts. This year, she has embraced her role as a team captain, recognizing that our entire team looks up to her as a leader."
MHS volleyball coach Dan Westby described Oaxaca as a "valued member in our program" and praised her dedication.
Schultz has also participated in various activities, including marching band, Link Crew, Roaring 20s vocal ensemble, winter drum line, Beats, math team, track and FCA.
"I just enjoy so much about the activities I'm in," Schultz said. "In most of them, I have great friends there. I love music a lot, and sports has always been a fun outlet, to compete with friends. If I had more time, I would do more, but there's only a certain amount of time in a day to do stuff."
Schultz said his favorite season or activity is whichever one he's currently in.
"That's the one I like," he said. "When I'm in track, track is the best. When I'm in drum line, that's the best."
One of Schultz's favorite activities outside of school is his youth group participation.
"I lead worship for our youth group Wednesday nights," Schultz said. "And I enjoy Bible studies there with other students."
In his student essay question, Schultz told of a memorable 10-day mission trip to Haiti through his church and the Haitian American Friendship Foundation.
"I had an out-of-the-classroom learning experience during the first semester where I was able to apply what I've learned in music, public speaking, photography class, history, soccer and other academic and extracurricular experience in the Marshall Schools," Schultz said. "While I didn't get academic credit for this, I feel that the experience made me a strong student and a stronger person."
Reading, writing and spending time with family are some of the outside activities that top Oaxaca's list.
"I like to read a lot and write," she said. "I also do Bible studies and youth group, stuff like that. And I just enjoy being with my family. I've found that a lot of good memories have been, not even playing games or anything, but just being with my family."
Academics are obviously a priority for both Triple "A" winners as well. Both have challenged themselves with advanced placement classes and are also enrolled in the College in School program.
"I consider my academics and coursework to be very important," Schultz said. "I have taken every available AP, CIS or honors class at my high school that I could fit into my schedule. Each year, I have placed in the top 10 in my class. I am also a member of the National Honor Society and am a part of its leadership committee."
Purrington also had good things to say about Oaxaca in the classroom.
"Jessica has the unique combination of intellect, hard work and positive leadership," he said. "In the rigorous class of AP European history last year, Jessica achieved one of the best grades in the class. More importantly, she led the class through her effort and positive class participation."
As of now, Oaxaca plans to attend the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, studying pre-law.
"Law is associated with a lot of things I like to do, like reading, writing and public speaking," Oaxaca said. "Before, I thought I wanted to go into medicine, but in a careers class, I found that it really wasn't for me. But the more I find out about law, the more sure I am that I want to do it. It really interests me."
Oaxaca currently has an independent study, which is based on law, at school.
"It's structured to investigate the law department, using that knowledge to correlate to realistic situations in our world today," she said. "It's a broad area of study."
Schultz hasn't identified his major interest yet, though he's narrowed the college search down to two.
"I'm probably going to the University of Northwestern in the Twin Cities," he said. "Bethel isn't ruled out yet, though. I could still go there. But I'm undecided on what I'm going to go for yet."
Regardless of what Schultz chooses to do in the future, adviser Alison Marshall has confidence that he'll be successful.
"One definition of a role model is someone who 'serves as an example,'" Marshall said in a letter of recommendation for Schultz. "Ryan is certainly an example to others in both the classroom and in the many varied high school activities that he participates in. Three specific qualities of a role model that Ryan possesses are passion, value and selflessness. He has a contagious passion for what he does and makes it easy for others to be around him. And he is focused and behaves in a way that supports his values and beliefs."
Both recipients said they were very appreciative of receiving the Triple "A" award.
"It's definitely an honor," Schultz said. "I know there's a lot of great people out there that deserve this award. So it's just an honor to be picked."
Along with their families, Schultz and Oaxaca will be attending the Triple "A" banquet Sunday at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Among all the state's nominees, one boy and one girl will be selected from both Class A and Class AA. Those students will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
"It's an honor to represent our school, among all the other people," Oaxaca said. "We have the banquet on Sunday, and we'll be there to represent our school."