Akram, Hallman named ExCEL Award nominees
Jayde Hallman and Kumail Akram were recently named Buffalo High School’s nominees for the Minnesota State High School League’s ExCEL Award.
The award, which stands for Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership, is for juniors who participate in an MSHSL fine arts and/or athletic activity, hold a leadership position in their school, and volunteer in their community, among other stipulations.
Both students said they were surprised by the honor and appreciated the recognition of their efforts.
“There are a lot of great students who are super talented and do tons of extra curriculars,” said Akram.
“I just assume everyone else is doing just as much as I am, so it doesn’t feel like a lot,” said Hallman. “But I do try to have high standards for what I should be doing.”
Hallman is an outstanding member of the band and marching band, where she was captain of the clarinet section and winner of the Golden Dinkle Award for Outstanding Visual Performance.
“Jayde is a standout performer,” wrote BHS band director Scott Rabehl in a letter of recommendation. “Her performance skills are legendary throughout the band.”
Hallman also plays the bass clarinet in the concert band, and has taught herself tenor saxophone to play in the jazz band as well.
“I have found her to be a remarkable student and musician; talented, committed to excellence, and terrific leader,” said Rabehl.
In addition to her musical abilities, Hallman was named Most Improved on the swimming and diving team this fall, and is also a member of the track and field team.
Academically, she is a strong student, a member of the National Honor Society, and a physics tutor who helps peers in what she intends to be her future college major. As for community service, she has volunteered with Feed My Starving Children.
Hallman said a good leader must be self-aware and outward-focused.
“The most important thing is knowing not to take yourself too seriously, because there are always going to be people who are better than you. So the best you can do is be there to support your peers with what you have,” she said. “It’s important to know what that is, what you have to give.”
In terms of athletics, Akram runs on the state-caliber cross country team. He was named Rookie of the Year in cross country, and competes in track and field as well.
In school, he has spent countless hours in band, jazz band and orchestra as a percussionist, sings in choir and BHS Singers, and was a captain on the winter drumline. He also carries a 4.0 unweighted grade point average, has competed at the varsity Knowledge Bowl level since ninth grade, and is a member of the yearbook staff.
Outside of his regular activities, Akram volunteers at the Buffalo Food Shelf, and as a middle school choir mentor.
“Both his athletic and academic skills are exceptional, and he is one of the most friendly and helpful students in his calculus class,” wrote BHS math teacher David Kilgore in a letter of recommendation for the award. “Truly, he is an ideal role-model for his peers.”
Kilgore noted Akram’s enthusiasm for learning, constant good humor, and his effective interactions with fellow students.
“Watching him work with his peers is like watching distinguished college students collaborating on research assignments,” Kilgore said. “It is clear that, to him, learning isn’t just a job, it is a passion.”
The ExCEL award is about leadership, and Akram shared that leaders must be clear communicators so that expectations are clearly understood. He also noted that leaders must be open-minded and empathetic, willing to adjust for the group’s benefit.
“Leadership is never about the individual,” he said. “It’s not about you. It’s about everyone else that you affect. As a leader, you need to motivate people to do things that make them better.”