Dedication, positivity and the ability to overcome obstacles are some of the qualities that set Pequot Lakes senior Austin Young apart from his peers.

Those are a few of the reasons Young received the National Joint Powers Alliance's Rising Star award this year.

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The award recognizes students from Region 5 high schools who are nominated by school staff for being "unsung heroes" of sorts, behind-the-scenes students who may not always get the recognition they deserve. Many times these students have overcome challenges in their lives to get where they are today, which is true of Young.

Young - who won a $215 scholarship for being a Rising Star - gained recognition on the football field and basketball court throughout his high school career, but one very important person was not there to see it.

"My dad passed away in December (2012) when I was 12," Young said. "He was involved with so many things in my life. One of the biggest things was probably sports. Being a coach and teaching me everything, for him to pass away was a big thing for me."

But he didn't let that tragedy stop him from having a successful four years.

"Instead of living in sadness, I continued to honor him and have done some pretty great things - as some people would probably back me up on that - in my football career," he said.

Aaron Nelson, Pequot Lakes High School principal, said the gridiron isn't the only place Young shines.

"Despite difficult events in his life, Austin has worked to demonstrate that a commitment to excellence is a choice," Nelson wrote on Young's nomination form. "Popular with his peers, Austin is quick to recognize others for their support and offer support to those who need encouragement. Austin is a rallying voice from the stands for the Patriots, leading cheers to rouse the teams to victory. With a quick smile and a happy disposition, Austin has left a lasting impression on the Patriot family."

Nelson said over the phone: "You couldn't find a kinder kid."

Young said he's grateful for Nelson's Rising Star nomination and the staff's kinds words.

"It feels pretty good," Young said. "When I talked to Mr. Nelson about it, he said everyone he talked to pretty much mentioned my name, so that means a lot to me."

After graduation, Young has signed on to play football for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he plans to study athletic training.