On Tuesday afternoon, the St. James Rotary Club held its annual Rotary Banquet program, led by Rotary President Jim Branstad.

The banquet started with a greeting from Shawna Asendorf.

"What a year it is," said Asendorf. "(We are) grateful for technology so that we are able to acknowledge the achievements of our brilliant students."

Jackson Miest earned the Rotary Award for music, presented by Karen Lahti.

Miest competed in concert band as a percussion and was a section leader. He received high scores in solo ensembles on mallets. In the marching band and pep band, Miest played the snare drum.

"This is where he really shines," said Lahti. "He's an outstanding musician and he's trusted by his peers as a leader."

Miest was also a member of concert choir, madrigals, and limited edition, serving as a captain in limited edition and madrigals.

Miest also received high grades in solo vocal contests in the last two years. He was a member of the Big South Conference Honor Choir and the Director's Honor Choir.

Ben Foss was earned the Rotary Award for social studies, presented by Brian Bluedorn.

Bluedorn touched upon Foss' ability to "think outside the box". Bluedorn highlighted this trait upon receiving an email from Foss inquiring about Youth Services. The email contained a list of questions for teachers to fill out. 

Foss is also the creator of a fake band equipped with t-shirts and is one of the creators of a lunchtime soccer league.

"In the classroom, Ben is a responsible student with great knowledge, but what helped him stand out was his ability to think outside the box as it became an asset to classroom discussions," said Bluedorn.

Jayger Dannhoff earned the Rotary Award for agriculture, presented by Becky Cronk.

"When I met Jayger two years ago he was a little shy and unsure," said Cronk. "Through his experiences with FFA and agriculture, he has become more confident and more outgoing."

Dannhoff was an officer for FFA the last two years, and served as its president this past year.

"He strives for greatness in himself and those around him. Jayger is a great advocate for our ag program and agriculture in general."

Callie Radenbaugh earned the Rotary Award for science, presented by Scott Allen.

Allen taught Radenbaugh in biology, human physics, and medical terminology.

"She's a very conscientious student," said Allen. "She makes sure she works on everything and she has a good work ethic. He wants to learn."

"She will succeed in anything she does."

Radenbaugh plans to go to the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities majoring in pre-dental or biology.

Briar Lenz earned the Rotary Award for math, presented by Gary Blom.

Lenz has attended the math conference at Mankato State University as a sophomore and a junior.

"It was something I think Briar enjoyed doing because it challenged him," said Blom. "Briar is always looking for a challenge- in anything, math included."

"I was privileged to have Briar as my Youth Services student this year. So I got to see him every day which was great I hadn't seen him since he was in ninth grade. His work in Youth Services was no different than his work in class. He would walk in, set his stuff down and ask what needed to be done and do it. It got to there point where I didn't have to tell him what to do he would just do it."

Lucia Kulseth earned the Rotary Award for language arts, presented by Rebecca Walz.

"She displays courage through her willingness to question the world around her and ask for help when that world does not really make that much sense," said Walz. "She displays integrity through her strong moral character. She has strong beliefs and she is firm in those beliefs that are rooted in goodness. Luci displays compassion by being an empathetic and considerate person. I don't think anyone here could question her kindness to those around her. Finally, Luci exemplifies the value of respect. She respects those around her displays great self-respect."

Nelson Erazo-Aguilar earned the Rotary Award for ESL, presented by Rachel Casey.

Erazo-Aguilar entered St. James in the seventh grade not being able to speak English and exited the ESL program in just three years as a freshman. 

"He has worked really hard to accomplish many things in our district," said Casey. "Being involved in sports and other extracurricular activities." 

Emma Zender earned the Rotary Award for drama, presented by Linda Becken.

"I have gotten to watch Emma grow in theater since she was very young," said Becken. "Emma was a joy to have as a part of the cast. She rarely misses a rehearsal, shows up on time, and doesn't leave learning her lines until the very last minute."

Zender's first major role was as Mayor Matilda Hyde in All Shook Up. Zender also starred in Mamma Mia! as Tanya. 

Zender was cast as one of the step-sisters in Cinderella this spring.

Zender has also been active in band, choir, madrigals, tennis, gymnastics, youth council, and social justice club.

Lucia Kulseth earned the Rotary Award as the top female athlete, presented by Les Zellmann.

Kulseth participated in tennis, gymnastics, and track. She was a captain in tennis and gymnastics. She was a four-year letter winner in tennis, participated in two state tournaments.

This past fall, she was all-conference and medaled at the section individual tournament.

In gymnastics, she was a six-year letter winner, an all-conference selection, and was voted team MVP three times. 

In track, she earned six letters, and competed in a variety of events, including the 200, 400, 1600, 4x400, 4x800, and long jump.

Coaches described Kulseth as an "outstanding worker", "hard worker", an "outstanding athlete", and "awesome role model."

Tallin Johnson and Derrick Halvorson earned the Rotary Award as co-winners of the top male athlete, presented by Les Zellmann.  

Halvorson participated in football, basketball, and baseball. Halvorson was a three-year starter, including two at quarterback, a captain, and holds the record for longest pass in St. James football history at 95 yards. 

In basketball, Halvorson was a three-year letter winner and was recently voted team MVP as a captain.

In baseball, Halvorson was a pitcher and shortstop for the Saints, and was expected to be a major contributor and catalyst this spring.

Coaches described Halvorson as a "team leader", "very coachable", "can be counted on to give his best every day".

Tallin Johnson was a two-sport athlete in football and wrestling. Johnson was a three-year starter for the Saints and was a captain this year, finishing his career with 185 tackles.

In wrestling, Johnson was a six-time letter winner, two-time captain, three-time all-conference selection, and was named team MVP this season.

Johnson qualified for the state tournament twice, placing fourth this past winter.

Johnson also works heavily in the youth wrestling program.

Johnson finished his career with 123 wins and will wrestle at SMSU next winter.

Rotary Awards have been presented to St. James High School students for more than 55 years.