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Incoming APSU student Armstrong awarded student leadership honor by American Spirit Awards

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Before Northeast High School senior Rebecca Armstrong matriculates to Austin Peay State University this fall, the Clarksville resident will have the unique opportunity to represent the state of Tennessee as a part of the annual American Spirit Awards.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Before Northeast High School senior Rebecca Armstrong matriculates to Austin Peay State University this fall, the Clarksville resident will have the unique opportunity to represent the state of Tennessee as a part of the annual American Spirit Awards.

Held June 8-10 at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the American Spirit Awards celebrates individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served the country during the era of World War II. As a part of the event, Armstrong will join one student from each state and the District of Columbia in receiving the Billy Michael Student Leadership Award.

The Award is named for Billy Michal, who as a six-year-old growing up in Zimmerman, Louisiana, helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap-metal collection contest. Although young, Michael said he understood that every citizen—no matter their age—could contribute to our victory in the War. Through the Award, the Museum promotes these values to students nationwide and honors those who exemplify them, giving them an opportunity to be mentored by recipients of the American Spirit Awards, so that they may learn lessons of leadership and success.

Armstrong, who plans to study computer science at Austin Peay, said the award came as a surprise when she was notified by her teacher at Northeast.

“I honestly (didn’t know about the award) until my teacher, (Northeast High School teacher Bridget Cloud) emailed me saying I'd won,” Armstrong said. “It shocked me, but I was super excited after my mom explained the award and that she nominated me (without informing her) so if I won, it would be a major surprise.”

A high-achieving student, Armstrong said her mother’s pitch focused on her daughter’s history of academic success, as well as her dual-roles as recruiter and unofficial spokesperson for Northeast’s Academy of Computer and Game Programming Technology

“When I was in 7th Grade, Duke University was conducting a talent search for academically gifted students, so my mother talked about how I took the ACT at a young age,” Armstrong said. “That interest in academics only furthered when I got to high school and became involved with the Academy and met Mrs. Cloud, who is its (headmaster).”

Growing up in a military family, Armstrong said moving and losing her childhood friends led her to adopt more personal, creative hobbies. To deal with being the new girl” in school, Armstrong said, she took advantage of her creativity to make costumes, characters and stories based of her love of gaming and anime.

Northeast’s Academy and its focus on computer and game programming, Armstrong said, was the perfect overlap of skills and interests. And her introduction to Cloud, herself a 2013 Austin Peay computer science alumna, only strengthened her decision to pursue her academic future.

“Mrs. Cloud has been a major influence on my life since I was a freshman and the only student who got a Harry Potter joke she made about coding,” Armstrong joked. “I plan on majoring in computer science at Austin Peay and following her path because of how major an influence she has been on me.”

Armstrong and the other selected student leaders will be flown to New Orleans to attend the event, where they will represent their state at the prestigious American Spirit Awards. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in leadership activities including a Q&A session with the American Spirit Awards recipients, including Pulitzer Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom-winning writer, David McCullough and banker and philanthropist, David Rubenstein.

To find out more about Austin Peay State University’s Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, visit www.apsu.edu/csci. For more information on the American Spirit Awards, visit www.americanspiritawards.org.