Sometimes the things we do without expectation of recognition or reward earn us just that, at least that is what Pine River-Backus senior Dylan Malz learned recently.

"I'm the type of person, if you see someone who needs help, no matter the situation, you should help them," Malz said. "You shouldn't expect anything in return. It's the right thing to do."

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Malz may not have expected anything in return, but teachers Tiffany Abrams and Laure Marquardt noticed what he was doing, and they wanted him to be rewarded. They nominated him to the annual National Joint Powers Alliance Rising Star awards, writing:

"Dylan is a student who is described by many as kind, patient, and respectful. Dylan goes out of his way to greet others and make them smile. He is polite and has excellent manners with everyone he meets. Dylan has had several obstacles to overcome in his life and he is still successful in school, both in his academics and being a good person. Dylan volunteered to be a peer mentor for other high school students and he works with them daily. Dylan is an excellent example of a team player and he takes directions from others very well. When he makes mistakes Dylan can take responsibility and fix the problem. Dylan's kindness often goes unnoticed because he does not ask for anything in return and does not want attention placed on him. He has plans to attend college in the future and is exploring what career options he would like to do."

Malz was selected as one of Pine River-Backus's two Rising Stars this year and was rewarded with a banquet April 11 in Minneapolis as well as a $215 scholarship to St. Cloud Technical College, where will study the culinary arts. Naturally, though he was blown away by the banquet, one thing caught his eye more than anything else.

"(It was) a three-course meal with salad, steak, chicken and mashed potatoes," Malz said. "The dessert was the best thing I remember there. It was a chocolate and fudge cake with homemade whipped cream with a raspberry and white chocolate sauce."

Though he was hesitant to say, the banquet and recognition were a reaffirmation of his kindness to others - a quality he said he learned from his mother's boyfriend - and a reaffirmation that is helping him during a hard time.

"It made me feel happy, especially considering a lot of things going around," Malz said. "I really needed it. I felt justified with my actions."

Sometimes even when you don't want thanks, it can give you the resolve to keep going. For Malz, who said he is on the autism spectrum and sometimes suffers effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, this recognition will help him continue to turn his negative experiences into character instead of treating them as weakness.

Perhaps surprisingly, that's one thing that drives him to go the extra mile and help others.

"Instead of believing it is a disadvantage, I consider it an advantage because I know how hard life can be," Malz said. "I know what to expect."