NEW ORLEANS, LA - Laura Mills of Short Hills and Kent Place senior, was New Jersey's recipient of the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award. On Thursday one student from each state was flown to New Orleans for the National WWII Museum's American Spirit Awards. For the second year, Mills created a website designed to bring a watershed moment in history come alive with multiple perspectives, context and the long-term ramifications. In 2017, the award's inaugural year, Mills researched physicist Joseph Rotblat, finishing with a National Honorable Mention. This year her winning website explored the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Mills was excited to visit New Orleans and the National WWII Museum. "It was my first time in New Orleans, and it was the best time coming here to be immersed in history, which is something I love, so it was really special to be able to come here and get the award here."
The senior prepping to head to The College of William & Mary reflected on her journey to this award. "It is all my work in history and it really culminated into getting this award. It is so exciting because it represents my research and my hard work and to be in a place where there is so much research and so I think this really represents my dedication to history and its nice being in a place that is what it is built on too."
At the awards luncheon and leadership forum Mills got to meet former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Mills said of the encounter, "It was inspiring to speak with the first woman governor of New Jersey and someone so dedicated to the National WWII Museum. Our conversation left me with an even greater desire to stay involved with the museum and to take advantage of its various opportunities for students."
“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 II, 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 70 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.”
Mills extolled the influence her school, Kent Place, had on her journey, "I am honored to be representing the state of New Jersey at the Billy Michal Student Leadership Awards. I developed my love of history in high school, and it crystallized even further through my participation in the National History Day competition. The competition has taught me how to research and think critically, and I would like to pursue history in college. Inside the classroom and out at Kent Place, the skills I have developed have been invaluable, and I very much appreciate having the opportunity to build interactive and enriching websites that engage people in history."
“We are very proud of Laura and all the work she has done,” added Tim Maset, Mill's history teacher at Kent Place. “She embodies all of the attributes Kent Place School hopes to instill in its students.”
In addition to her passionate work in history, Mills is the president of French Club, and she provides piano accompaniment for Kent Place School choirs. Last summer, she traveled to South Carolina on a community service trip with Kent Place where she worked with Habitat for Humanity.
Billy Michal, the award's namesake, 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 paper-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.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why 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. The 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards ranks the Museum No. 2 in the world and No. 2 in the nation. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.