BestPrep 2024 Award Winners

The BestPrep Annual Luncheon took place on Wednesday, May 22 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis. CEO of Minnesota United FC, Shari Ballard, participated in an invigorating conversation with WCCO Radio Host, Jordana Green. Guests left feeling truly inspired. We awarded the top 3% of educators and top 0.5% of volunteers. It’s so special to be able to celebrate our incredible students, teachers, and volunteers at this annual event. You can see a full list of the award winners here.

Student of the Year

Vardaan Gupta, University of Washington

Impressed by the warm welcome and incredible teamwork during his initial stint as a Minnesota Business Venture student in 2020, Vardaan returned the next summer to take on a CEO/leader role at BestPrep. Motivated by the positive environment, he served in this capacity for three consecutive summers. BestPrep’s mentorship equipped him with resilience and skills to tackle adversity. This involvement enriched his life, fostering lasting friendships and connections.

Vardaan, employed by Apple in Seattle, actively engages in the esports community at the University of Washington. He assists in managing their team, transitioning from the PAC-12 to the Big 10.

Additionally, Vardaan oversees VanLyn, an internationally acclaimed esports team ranking among the top 10 globally. Through his multifaceted engagement, Vardaan exemplifies dedication to personal development, community contribution, and leadership.

Vardaan reflected, “My involvement with BestPrep has enriched my life by fostering lasting friendships and reliable connections in school, work, and personal matters. The mentorship from the staff has equipped me with the skills to tackle adversity effectively and with resilience. Their support has been instrumental in my personal development, offering opportunities and opening doors that have shaped me into the person I am today.”

Volunteer of the Year

Paul Langlois, Ecolab

Paul has been deeply engaged with BestPrep for more than six years, with the past four years serving BestPrep’s Board of Directors. Collaborating with a dedicated team from Ecolab, he oversees the execution of Ecolab volunteerism for all of BestPrep’s programs. He has established a “best practices” document for mobilizing volunteers which other participating companies are implementing.
Paul actively contributes to BestPrep, having served on committees like the Employee Engagement Committee. He is currently Co-Chairing the Strategic Planning Committee as well as serving as BestPrep’s Vice Chair. Paul will become Chair of BestPrep’s board in
September of 2025.

His efforts extend beyond organizational roles, as he leverages the expertise of Ecolab employees to assist BestPrep staff training as well as other functions such as communications. Whether students are participating in Minnesota Business Venture or exploring Ecolab, seeing them envision their futures resonates deeply with Paul. Inspired by his own high school journey, Paul is driven to instill similar inspiration in students, making BestPrep an ideal platform for realizing this aspiration.

Paul noted, “I have seen growth from our volunteers at Ecolab, it’s great to see them lead and do great work in support of the community. But most importantly, the benefit comes from seeing and hearing about the great experiences that students have with the BestPrep programs.”

Educator of the Year

Andrea Kemink, Brooklyn Center Secondary

Andrea has been engaged with BestPrep since 2013, when she started requesting speakers to come into her classroom through Classroom Plus and participated in eMentors. That blossomed into an 11-year partnership where Andrea has continued participating in those two programs and added Financial Matters speakers to aid her students in buying a car, budgeting, and understanding taxes, credit, and insurance.

Andrea continued taking advantage of what BestPrep has to offer by attending the Technology Integration Workshop, visiting Minnesota Business Venture, participating in a workplace tour through Classroom Plus and continuing to offer eMentors to hundreds of Brooklyn Center AVID students.

Professionally, BestPrep enriches her curriculum with practical skills and real-world connections. Additionally, she volunteers with the Washburn High School Athletic Leadership Academy, furthering her commitment to education and community engagement.

Andrea noted, “Professionally BestPrep has offered me a way to supplement my curriculum with real world connections and skills.”

Board Member of Distinction

Maggie Snetting, Thrivent

Maggie’s journey with BestPrep began in 2010 as a Resident Business Leader at Minnesota Business Venture, ignited by a former colleague’s recommendation. Witnessing the profound impact on students, she was compelled to deepen her involvement.

Over time, she transitioned to the Board of Directors, driven by her passion for empowering youth. Through her tenure, she realized the volunteer experience transcended mere service, evolving into a rich tapestry of leadership development and profound connections.

Beyond BestPrep, Maggie contributes to her community through memberships in the Junior League of Minneapolis and Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church, embodying her commitment to service and growth.

Maggie noted, “The relationships I built with other Resident Business Leaders, volunteers in the other programs, board members and BestPrep staff extended beyond camp and our volunteerism, into a professional network of peers and long-lasting friendships.”