Five area high schools are being honored by the Hennepin Theatre Trust for excellence in their fall theater productions.

They're among 56 high schools across the state that participate in the trust's SpotLight Musical Theatre Program.

The program, in its eighth year, salutes outstanding productions and individual performances, and judges musicals without comparing or ranking them against each other. As a result, East Ridge in Woodbury and Hill-Murray in Maplewood both are being honored for their fall productions of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas," and New Life Academy in Woodbury and North High in North St. Paul both are being recognized for "Hello, Dolly!"

White Bear Lake Area High School is being honored for outstanding overall production and outstanding overall performance for "Anything Goes." Emily Nies and Jon Woodruff, also won awards for outstanding performance in a leading role.

"White Christmas" has four lead roles: World War II U.S. Army buddies Phil Davis and Bob Wallace, and the Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy. For its production, East Ridge is being honored for outstanding overall performance. In addition, three of the four students in lead roles are being recognized for outstanding performance. They are Pari Cariaga (as Betty Haynes), Naomi Ridley (Judy Haynes) and Austin Robinson (Bob Wallace). Matt Thorsen (Phil Davis) won honorable mention for his performance.

Hill-Murray is being honored for outstanding overall performance for its production of "White Christmas."

Awards will be presented at a SpotLight Showcase event to be held June 3 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

Amanda Hestwood, who directed the East Ridge production, said this year will mark the first time that East Ridge students will perform as an ensemble on the Orpheum stage.

Tickets for the event, which sold out last year, go on sale Feb. 20. White Bear Lake

Healthy eating contestStudents in the White Bear Lake Area Schools are being encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an initiative dubbed The yumPower School Challenge.

The partnership between the school district and the YMCA, HealthPartners and Children's Hospital seeks to promote healthy eating by asking elementary school students and teachers to track how many servings of fruits and vegetables they eat each week for four weeks, a district news release said.

The district, quoting a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said fewer than 15 percent of American children under age 19 consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Earlier this month the district held kickoff events at Otter Lake Elementary in White Bear Lake and at Vadnais Heights Elementary. It plans to continue the initiative at school-assembly events at Hugo and Oneka Elementary Schools in Hugo on Jan. 29 and at Birch Lake Elementary in White Bear Lake on March 7.


Distinguished alumniMahtomedi High School is seeking nominees for its Alumni of Distinction Award.

The honors are given annually to three to five graduates who have excelled in their careers or made outstanding contributions to society, according to the district's website.

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