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Harriman, Tennessee (March 23, 2021) - The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has named local student Brant Lee Helms of Harriman High School as a 2021 Billy Michal Student Leadership Award recipient. The national honor is awarded annually to one student in every state who has maintained a strong record of volunteerism, demonstrates school and community activism, and helps implement creative solutions to recognized problems. Each honoree will be virtually recognized at the Museum's American Spirit Awards program taking place June 18, 2021.
The leadership award, which the Museum first presented in 2017, was created in honor of Billy Michal, who was a child living in Louisiana during World War II. At only six years old, Michal helped his one-room school win a statewide scrap metal-collection contest during the war, proving that every citizen could contribute to victory. Michal's achievement demonstrated the positive impact the American spirit could have on the Home Front war efforts, and he continues to inspire students across America today.
"It's extremely gratifying to recognize students throughout the nation for the wonderful contributions they make to their local communities," said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO at The National WWII Museum. "During World War 11, our country needed everyone to come together for a common goal of securing freedom and democracy around the world. Much like Billy Michal's contribution over 75 years ago, our student honorees prove that their positive actions, no matter how big or small, can make a difference in their communities. We are proud to honor their accomplishments."
Having a father working for local government has given Brant numerous opportunities to serve the community, many of which are aimed at helping those in need. This includes events like the Fire Department's Santa route where gifts are given out to children in need. He also stepped in without prior notice to emcee the Rotary Club's Battle of the Bands where local high school bands compete and the admission fee is canned goods to be donated to a local food bank. The family is a local fixture on the City wide Trunk or Treat event where costumed groups give candy to thousands of attendees and in the annual Christmas Parade. However, in 2020 when Covid restrictions caused the community to cancel the regular parade and have Santa ride through neighborhoods giving candy and joy to the children, Brant stepped in to be the voice of the Livestream on Facebook keeping citizens informed of Santa's whereabouts and when he might be getting to their neighborhood.
He has also volunteered to keep the scoreboard and announce local ballgames. He also served as the manager for his school's girls volleyball team. He volunteers to assist at many different City functions like the annual Chili Competition and Hooray for Harriman, which is the City's largest annual festival. He does whatever is needed from emptying the trash, to customer relations, to emceeing the band stage. He has sung several solos for the school choir and performs regularly, at times in the lead role, in the non-profit local theater which is a new endeavour within the community to bring the arts to everyone.
When his family recently hosted a foreign exchange student from Italy he served as a big brother by helping acclimate her to her new country, school, and community. This included making sure his exchange student sister had transportation to school and other after-school activities.
Brant is a member of the Harriman High School Choir and Tennis Team. He is also a member of the Three Rivers Theater Company and a former Boy Scout. He is a trained American Field Service Foreign Exchange Liaison and a member of Lawnville Road Church of Christ where he is active in teaching, song leading, and other aspects of worship service.
The National WWII Museum's American Spirit Awards - presented by Hancock Whitney- is as multi-day event consisting of a patron reception, premier gala, and awards luncheon and leadership forum, which is where the Billy Michal students will receive their awards. In addition to the Billy Michal winners, the recipients of the Museum's American Spirit Award, American Spirit Medallion and Silver Service Medallion will be honored throughout the event. The 2021 American Spirit Award honorees include World War II veteran Richard Duchossois, world-renowned presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Emmy Awardwinning filmmaker and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., PhD., Military Historian Victor Davis Hanson, PhD., and former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor the Honorable Henry Kissinger.
Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards will support educational programming at The National WWII Museum, including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country, as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its resources to students around the world.
For American Spirit Awards ticket information and additional event details, visit americanspiritawards.org or call 504-528-1944 ext. 334.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the worldwhy it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today-so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.