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John’s Journal: National Honor For Kylen Running Hawk

Morris Area Senior Named NFHS Heart Of The Arts Winner

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 1:59 PM

In this space in late January, we were proud to honor Morris Area High School senior Kylen Running Hawk as the 2021 MSHSL Heart of the Arts Award winner. The Heart of the Arts Award recognizes individuals who exemplify the positive ideals of performing arts that are the core mission of education-based participation in arts and activities.

We forwarded Kylen’s nomination to the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis. A committee looked at nominations from all 50 states; Kylen was named the Heart of the Arts winner for NFHS Section 5 (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri). And then came the best news of all: Kylen has been named the NATIONAL winner of the NFHS Heart of the Arts honor.

This is a tremendous honor for a tremendous young man. Kylen is active in many school activities, including choir, theater, speech and mock trial. He found his passion in the performing arts despite a language barrier, hearing loss and other obstacles. Kylen plans to study education in college, with an emphasis on choir and theater, with hopes of teaching those art forms to Native American students.

Kylen’s family is Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Nation in North and South Dakota and the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. His Lakota name is Wica Kawitaya, which translates to He Gathers the People/Nation. Kylen’s early years were spent on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and his first language is Lakota Sioux.

To read the January 27 story about Kylen, click here:… 

I was at Morris Area High School on Tuesday morning for a school assembly in the auditorium. I was there, presumably, to announce that Kylen had been named the Section 5 winner. And it was my great honor to announce to Kylen, his family, teachers and friends that he is the national winner of the Heart of the Arts award.

He is the second Minnesota student to be so honored. The 2017 national honoree was Josephine Ross of Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in St. Louis Park. To read about other past recipients of the national award, click here:

The National Federation of State High School Associations holds a convention every summer, with people from all 50 high school governing bodies gathered together. Last year’s convention was canceled and held virtually due to the pandemic, so let’s hope this summer’s convention takes place. It is scheduled for late June in Orlando, Florida. Kylen will be honored at the convention, with the National Federation making travel arrangements and paying all the expenses for him and some family members to be there in Orlando.

As I said at Morris Area High School, we have been through a dark time, with a worldwide pandemic changing everyone’s lives. But in dark times there are always bright lights to be found, and we are proud to honor one of those bright lights, Kylen Running Hawk.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at

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