The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has selected Anders Lovstuen, a multi-activity participant and exemplary student leader at Decorah High School, as the recipient of the 2024 National High School Heart of the Arts Award.

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was conceptualized by the NFHS in 2014 and has since been utilized to honor those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts and represent the core mission of education-based activities.

Few others personify the spirit of education-based activities more fervently than Lovstuen, a speech standout and integral part of the Decorah High School community who refuses to be defined by his physical limitations. However, there’s a very strong case that Lovstuen, who was born without fully-formed arms and legs, can be defined by another part of his body–his heart.

Intelligent, charismatic, and known for lifting up those around him, Lovstuen has risen to become captain of the DHS speech and Envirothon teams, as well as a go-to member of the robotics team and the school’s FFA chapter. He does all this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA that helped qualify him as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, a group of students comprising less than one percent of all high school seniors in the United States. 

Lovstuen’s extraordinary extracurricular talents show up first and foremost on the speech stage, where, as a four-year member of the team, he earned Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) All-State honors several times in both large group and individual speech. Last year, his Improvisation group claimed the IHSSA’s highest honor, the Critic’s Choice award, crowning them the best performers out of 566 teams statewide. Along the way to these lofty accolades, Lovstuen remained true to form as a role model, helping to organize DHS’s district contest and epitomizing for younger teammates what it means to act, dress, and compete with class.

Last year was also a memorable one for Lovstuen’s Envirothon team, which reigned supreme in every category (soils/land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, and wildlife) at the state competition. The team, known as “Decorah Nerd Republic,” went on to represent the state of Iowa at the North American Envirothon event in Canada hosted by the National Conservation Foundation, where their team took home a top-20 finish. As captain, Lovstuen leads the team’s study sessions.

For the robotics team, Lovstuen is both a participant and a coach, focused on developing ideas for the robot and coordinating the team’s tournament interview process. His guidance paid off recently as the team captured the Judges’ Choice Award at the league tournament and also won its super qualifier competition.

Lovstuen has served as FFA chapter treasurer and as Growing Leaders Division chair and has also been a part of several FFA committees. An active participant at the chapter, district, and state levels and an avid competitor at skills competitions, Lovstuen has earned awards in multiple disciplines throughout his high school career. Lovstuen is involved with 4-H as well and was a member of an All-Star Dairy judging team that took fourth place at the North American International Livestock Exposition.

Although he can’t compete on the field or the mat, Lovstuen has still found a way to be a key contributor to the Decorah football and wrestling programs. He has kept statistics for the football team for the past six seasons and attends every wrestling practice as a manager. During matches, he provides broadcast commentary on the team’s Facebook video streams.

In addition to carrying his perfect GPA, Lovstuen tutors fellow students who are experiencing academic difficulties and has competed in the High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling (HiMCM) in each of his four high school years. Two years ago, he was a part of the first team in state history to be HiMCM “finalists,” which placed them in the top seven percent of competitors in the country and clinched a berth in the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge.

On top of everything else, Lovstuen is part of the DHS Student Leadership Committee and the Decorah chapter of the National Honor Society. He also played a major role in organizing the “Viking Olympics” during Decorah’s homecoming week this past fall and functioned as a co-master of ceremonies for the all-school pep assembly.

Throughout his high school career, Lovstuen has worked with all of the speech coaches: Molly Holkesvik, Gabriel Twedt, Carrie Kauffman, Rachel Breitenbach-Dirks, Lyra McKnight, and Annika Krieg. They remarked, “Anders is a true leader, working hard for every team he joins. His creativity and wit have served him and his teammates well in many speech events, and his leadership and steady demeanor have helped him collaborate with and lead his peers.”

Associate principal and athletic director Adam Riley added, “This award is a reflection of the collective efforts of family and community. Anders is outstanding in so many ways.”

Lovstuen with coaches and director

Speech coaches Rachel Breitenbach-Dirks, Annika Krieg, Gabe Twedt, Carrie Kauffman, Lyra McKnight, and Molly Holkesvik share in the celebration as Executive Director of the Iowa State Speech Association Stacy Hansen presents Anders Lovstuen his national award.

DHS Student Body Heart

 DHS students form the shape of a heart in honor of Anders Lovstuen’s award.

Lovstuen with director and family

Stacy Hansen, Executive Director of the Iowa State Speech Association, award recipient Anders Lovstuen, Allysen Lovstuen, Nick Lovstuen, Anya Lovstuen, and Lyla Lovstuen.

Lovstuen with coaches and admin

Front row – Coach Carrie Kauffman, award recipient Anders Lovstuen, and Coach Molly Holkesvik

Back row: School board member and board member of the IGHSAU Ron Fadness, DHS Principal Brad Hurst, Coach Rachel Breitenbach-Dirks, Coach Gabe Twedt, Superintendent Tim Cronin, DHS Associate Principal and Athletic Director Adam Riley, and Coach Annika Krieg