2 Under 20 Runners-up - Class of 2016
By Jenny Berg
Originally published: Jan. 15, 2016
For some, volunteering is sacred. For others, it's uplifting, or seen as a way to give back.
For three noteworthy high school students, giving of themselves is just something that comes naturally.
"There is nothing more sacred than a purposeful life," said Audrey Nguyen, a senor at Technical High School. "I think that service is really important. We all have some responsibility we need to complete in our life."
"It's fun," said Hailey Lothert, a senior at Technical High School, of volunteering in the gift gallery at St. Cloud Hospital. "Not everyone is there for the happiest things, and to be able to do things for them or deliver flowers and see the happy looks on the patients' faces is priceless."
"I wouldn't be where I am without the help of the people around me," said Daniel Sertich, a senior at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, of why he feels the need to give back.
In addition to their selflessness, all three area students are seen by those around them as leaders in school and activities. That's why all three were runners-up for the 2016 class of the 2 Under 20 award, which is presented to Central Minnesota teens who have been instrumental in shaping their communities through leadership and service.
Nguyen, Lothert and Sertich join 2 Under 20 award winners Marisa Gaetz and Josh Maricle-Roberts in the 2016 class. All five will be honored at a Jan. 24 reception. Here's a rundown on the runners up:
Audrey Nguyen, 2016 2 Under 20 runner up. (Photo: Submitted photo)
Nguyen, 17, wants to help find a way to celebrate diversity and reduce prejudice in the area. She said as the child of Vietnamese refugees, she sympathizes with "the struggle of exclusion." But in her community, Nguyen's found many ways to be included.
Her leadership roles have included being captain of the math team, concertmaster of symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra, vice president of National Honor Society, secretary/treasurer of junior advisory at St. Cloud Hospital, leadership intern at Camp Invention, member of St. Cloud Times editorial board, intern at Mississippi Strings Camp, Junior Rotarian and research intern in the chemistry department at College of St. Benedict.
Nguyen promotes inclusion through her activities. She said she learned a lot from a student protest at Technical High School in the spring of 2015.
"I just saw how people immediately took sides, and I saw it was destructive at our school," she said. "We bounced back really well from it. The school administration are working really hard to bridge the gap."
Nguyen also works as a pianist at Cafe Renaissance. She started taking lessons when she was 5.
"I go there every Saturday night and play for maybe three hours. It's been really fun," she said.
Nguyen dreams of participating in Doctors Without Borders. She hasn't chosen a college yet, but has been admitted to the honors program at the University of Minnesota and offered an interview at Pennsylvania State University in its accelerated premedical program.
She said her experience shadowing doctors helped solidify her goals.
"So far, I have an interest in being a pediatrician, dermatologist or cardiologist."
Hailey Lothert, 2016 2 Under 20 runner up. (Photo: Submitted photo)
Lothert, 17, also keeps busy as the president of student council, treasurer of Central Minnesota Association of Student Councils, treasurer of National Honor Society, member of Junior Kiwanis and SADD, leader of the Link Crew and captain of the varsity golf team.
She also volunteers at St. Cloud Hospital, her church and the Salvation Army food shelf, in addition to working at Scheels Sporting Goods.
"It's really hard. I prioritize," Lothert said of her busy schedule. “I don't sleep very much either. I do get exhausted, and when I fall asleep doing my homework, that's when I know I need to go to bed. But it's rewarding being involved in so many things because you get to know kids from other schools and build relationships with them."
Lothert said she hasn't committed to a college but is planning to attend either the University of Minnesota or Concordia College to study marketing or financial advising. Her favorite classes include calculus and psychology.
Her favorite activity is student council, where she helps plan activities such as dances and themed weeks to celebrate winter or homecoming.
Despite the exhaustion that can come with being so involved, Lothert encourages other students to participate in as many activities as they can.
"I would say for sure be involved, because even looking back now, I feel like I still miss out on some things or I should have done this ... there's just not enough time," she said. "I would say you have to put in the work for it, but it's definitely worth it."
Daniel Sertich, 2016 2 Under 20 runner up. (Photo: Submitted photo)
Sertich, 18, not only volunteers and participates in school activities, but has started his own consulting business that aims to help businesses bridge the gap between current business owners and millennials. He founded Versolin after speaking with business leaders during an internship at Greater St. Cloud Development Corp.
"I know my dad struggles sometimes with understanding me. When I was talking with businesses for my internship, that was something that was pretty consistent," Sertich said of the disconnect between generations. "The need is there, and there's no sense in me waiting unless I want someone to beat me."
Sertich is also the vice president of communications for Minnesota DECA, captain of the cross country team, in hockey and track, and has volunteered for the Salvation Army, Adopt-A-Highway, Link Crew and Tanner's Team Foundation, which was founded after his friend passed away from cancer.
Sertich also had perfect attendance his junior year, and is working again to have perfect attendance this year. His favorite activity is DECA, an organization that aims to create future business leaders and entrepreneurs.
"I love it. I joined as a sophomore and was hooked instantly on it," Sertich said. "I think it really solidified the entrepreneurial spirit I had already."
Sertich said he's been accepted to the University of St. Thomas, where he plans to study entrepreneurship, and hopes to obtain a bachelor's degree in finance and a master's degree in business administration.
"I want to continue to run the business that I own now," Sertich said. "When everything is said and done, I really want to get into the real estate market."