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Hannah Yackley

2 Under 20 - Class of 2015

By Dave DeLand

Originally published: January 10, 2016

SARTELL — She has lofty goals, high hopes, big dreams. Hannah Yackley is determined to realize them all, and isn't going to let anything stand in her way.

Not even that elevator door …

"We got stuck, in the elevator, at state, in the Target Center," Yackley said with a laugh as she recalled the Sartell Sabres' trip to the 2015 Minnesota State High School Dance Team Championships.

"We definitely were a little worried," she said, replaying those claustrophobic minutes, "that we weren't going to be able to dance."

They were — well enough to win the Class 2A high-kick state title.

And that's sort of a metaphor for Yackley's busy life in general: Nothing stops her, in any of her myriad of activities.

"I'm so passionate about the things that I'm in," said Yackley, 17, who is a winner of Times Media's inaugural 2 Under 20 Award. "I guess they're more important to me than sleeping.

"I think it's really important to give back to the community, especially our school," she said. "It has given me so many opportunities, as a leader and as a student."

Yackley will be honored at a Jan. 19 reception along with winner Gopi Ramanathan of Sartell and runners-up  Kaydee Miller of St. Cloud Tech, Isaac Logeman of St. Cloud Apollo and Nicole Yang of Sartell.

"The simple fact of what they do, and how they're representative of our students, is that they're really great kids," said Jeff Schwiebert, superintendent of Sartell-St. Stephen Schools.

He nominated both Yackley and Ramanathan for the award, which is presented to Central Minnesota teens who have been instrumental in shaping their communities through their leadership and service.

"They just love being involved," Schwiebert said. "She's been doing dance, and she's very involved in Student Council.

"Academically, they're both exceptional. I don't know when they have time to sleep."

Name an activity, and Yackley is probably involved in it:

"I really enjoy Student Council, just because it's so great to get together with a group of people that have the same goals as you — to help the school be a better place, to plan activities, to make it more enjoyable for all the students," Yackley said.

"Even as high schoolers, we're learning so much — from world issues today, from politics, from everything going on in the world," Yackley said. "It's definitely preparing us for dealing with it later on in our lives."

"Sports can teach you just as much as any other organization, any other extracurricular that you can be in," Yackley said. "I've learned how to work as a team. I've learned how to set a goal and work so hard to reach it.

"You learn how to deal with failure. You learn how to deal with winning. You learn so much from the people who are there with you every single day. I just can't imagine my life and how I would be as a person without dance."

The same goes for her partnership with Ramanathan — in this award, and in so many other things. They might be each other's biggest boosters.

"She's always a great partner," Ramanathan said. "She's a really great leader. She's always willing to put her 110 percent forward, and that's really amazing.

Hannah Yackley, 2015 2 Under 20 award winner. (Photo: Jason Wachter,

"I'm excited to see what she'll do in the future."

In the short term, that entails going to college.

"I'm narrowed it down between UW-La Crosse and UW-Madison," she said. "I'm studying microbiology, that's for sure.

"It's one of my dreams to lead a research project in the field of microbiology."

In the long run, it's far more than that.

"It's one of the things I get a little frustrated about when people say our future's not very bright in this country," Schwiebert said. "You've gotta be kidding me — these kids are so bright, and they'll come up with answers.

"These kids are going to be great."

Maybe really great. Yackley lists Mahatma Gandhi as an iconic influence and hopes to follow a similar path.

"He never asked for anything back. He always did everything for others before himself," she said. "Even if he didn't get much in return, it was always worth it to him.

"In 20 years, I really hope to work in the field of public health," Yackley said. "It's really one of my dreams to give back to the community in the field of health, and coming up with new ideas to keep everybody healthy."

That's Hannah's goal, her hope, her dream. Given how she's pursued all the previous ones, you have to like her chances.

"That's what I want to be known as in my life," she said. "I always want to put others before me.

"I want people to think of that when they remember me."

Contact Times columnist Dave DeLand at 255-8771 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @davedeland and on Facebook at Dave DeLand SC Times.

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