by Sam Aselstine
Monticello Times Editor
In a pair of ceremonies extremely fitting for the season, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann recognized the accomplishments of 18 area high school seniors at the Super 8 of Monticello Monday.
Bachmann, who has represented Minnesota’s 6th District since 2007, presented nine students with Congressional Certificates of Merit, awarded each year to seniors who have demonstrated exemplary citizenship and academic excellence during their high school careers. She also presented certificates of service academy appointments to 10 Minnesota students with one individual, Jeffrey Herrala of Anoka High School, a double recipient on the night earning both a Congressional Certificat of Merit and an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
“Congratulations. Two awards in one night. Boy, you’re cooking with gas,” Bachmann, an Anoka alum, said after presenting Herrala with his second honor.
“He’s a brilliant student, his teachers tell us. He’s filled with optimism and enthusiasm for learning.”
Herrala learned this week he is graduating first in his class at Anoka High School.
The senior also loves to run and was the captain of the varsity track and cross country teams at the high school, along with playing on the hockey team in the winter.
While taking PSEO classes through Anoka-Ramsey Community College he worked in the academic support center, tutoring college students in chemistry, biology and calculus.
The Air Force Academy scholarship will cover all of his costs for the four-year college, valued at more than $400,000.
Herrala had also been accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but was happy to recently learn he would be able to pursue his first choice with the Air Force.
At this point, he plans to study aeronautical engineering, while attending the academy in Colorado Springs.
“I’ve always really liked technology and I love math,” Herrala said. “It’s great to know that right out of college I’ll be able to have a job working with and leading people.”
Herrala, who lives in Andover, is the son of Steve and Sherry Herrala. He has one sister Stephanie, who attends the University of Minnesota Duluth and plans to go on to dental school.
Bachmann said there was the need when she took office for a way to better recognize students who worked hard, set good examples and attained high levels of achievement in the classroom and the community.
“We started this in the district about six years ago because we hear a lot of stories about all the bad things that teenagers do (wrong),” she said of the genesis for the certificates of merit.
“We know that doesn’t represent the bulk of teenagers who live here in this district. Most of them are really good kids and then you have just a very few that are out-of-the-park, exceptional kids that exemplify the very best of all of our schools and all of our families.”
Bachmann, whose family has an extensive military background, also had high praise for those who chose to serve their country, calling their choice “nothing short of heroic.”
“I extend to you my deepest congratulations,” Bachmann said during the service academy appointment ceremony. “You truly are the best of the brightest and our leaders for the future,”
“I’m extremely proud of each one of you that won this coveted spot. There were a lot of people who wanted to be where you are today. I know you’ll serve our country well.”
Union Editor Mandy Moran Froemming also contributed to this report.