A trio of Stillwater Area High School students brought home a gold medal in the school’s first foray into a state vocational-technical skills competition.

The students — Jake Lueders, Nick Sonnek and Garrett Stotts — were tasked with creating a grill from scratch.

The trio had six hours to finish the assignment as part of a spring championship event organized by the group SkillsUSA Minnesota.

On its website, the group says it helps high school and college students build “outstanding technical, academic and employability skills.”

About 400 business and industry representatives helped guide the April competition by creating nearly 80 skill and leadership contests for students across the state.

“Business partners work throughout the school year to plan the competitive events, and many of them hire their new employees right off the competition floor,” the Skills­USA Minnesota website states.

A Stillwater Area Public Schools news release that touted the welding trio’s success made no mention of jobs being offered on the spot. The district said that the students were judged on the merits of the finished grill and its design, as well as how well they worked as a team.

Although this was the first year that the district’s high school participated in the event, Stillwater Area Public Schools has a transition program for 18- to 21-year-olds through which students have competed for three years.

High finishers in that group included Rachel Tangen and Casey Engebretson, who won gold and silver medals, respectively, in an event involving employment applications.

Mahtomedi

Students leave town, snare merit awards

Two high school seniors who travel a bit each day to go to school were among second-round winners of $2,500 National Merit Scholarship awards.

Students who nab the second-round scholarships are “judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies,” a National Merit Scholarship Corp. news release states.

Finalists were required to write an essay, submit the results of two standardized tests and boast a record of involvement in school and community activities.

A year ago, just one local student captured a second-round award.

This year’s winners were:

• Kenji Cataldo, who lives on St. Paul’s East Side and attends Mahtomedi High School.

• Matthew Ehren, who lives in Woodbury and attends Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood.

Both students are considering careers in mathematics.

Forest Lake

Century Junior High names principal

J.P. Jacobson, director of instructional technology for the Shakopee Public Schools, has been chosen to be the next principal of Century Junior High in Forest Lake.

He will succeed Ben Lewis, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Century is one of two junior highs in the Forest Lake district.

Jacobson grew up in Frazee, Minn., and has a career that includes an award-winning stint as a middle-school math teacher in North Las Vegas, Nev.

In 2007, he returned to Minnesota to serve as assistant principal at Northdale Middle School in Coon Rapids, a Forest Lake district news release said.

Three years later, Jacobson joined the Shakopee Public Schools, and was principal at East Junior High before joining the superintendent’s cabinet as the district’s instructional technology czar.

According to the Shakopee district website, Jacobson is married with two young daughters, and lives in Lino Lakes.

Anthony Lonetree