Nine area high school students were honored recently as “scholars of distinction” by the Minnesota Department of Education.

The awards, presented to 48 students from across the state, recognize highly motivated, self-directed students who excel in the areas of science, math, social studies, theater arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Students must demonstrate a mastery of complex subjects and apply their knowledge and skills on challenging projects.

One local student, Janani Narayan, of East Ridge High in Woodbury, was a repeat honoree, having earned a “meritorious performance award” in science a year ago. This year’s award, presented at a ceremony at the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley on May 16, also came about as a result of Narayan’s work on a science project titled “Nano-gene constructs for non-viral gene delivery.”

East Ridge High saw six students capture awards. In addition to Janani Narayan, three seniors — Arshia Arora, Alexander Mackiel and Jeyani Narayan — earned scholars of distinctions awards in science. The other students — Garrett Hildebrandt and Anna Reimann — won scholars of distinction awards in theater arts.

Hildebrandt also joined Janani Narayan and Jeyani Narayan for a musical performance during the May 16 awards ceremony.

Two Woodbury High juniors — Aadarsh Padiyath and Divya Vundamati — were honored as scholars of distinction in science.

Also recognized as a scholar of distinction in science was Max Ylitalo, of Stillwater Area High. His project was titled “Landfill Car Fuel: Using Surfactants to Increase Cellulosic Ethanol Production from Waste Paper.”

Last year, Ylitalo won $250 for a similarly titled project at the 77th annual Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair.

Cottage Grove

Principal to depart for south metro job

Tina Haselius, principal of Crestview Elementary and Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion schools in Cottage Grove, is leaving for a new job as principal of Echo Park Elementary in Burnsville.

There, Haselius will have a chance to develop new curriculum as Echo Park makes the transition to a magnet school focusing on engineering and technology, a South Washington County School District news release said.

In a statement, Haselius said she was honored to work with the students, families and staff members at Crestview and Nuevas Fronteras.

“The pride, dedication and passion that this staff demonstrates on a daily basis is inspiring,” she said. “There is magic in these two schools, and I will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it.”

The district hopes to hire a new principal by Aug. 1.

Free meals

Also this summer, South Washington County will again offer free meals to children at Crestview Elementary, 7830 S. 80th St.

Breakfast and lunch will be available to children ages 2 to 18. They do not have to attend Crestview to participate and can stop in on any day.

Days of operation are July 6-9, July 13-16, July 27-30 and Aug. 3-6. Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to noon.

The district provides the meals as part of the state Department of Education’s summer food service program.

Anthony Lonetree