Heather Nereson had no idea why she was being called to the front of the auditorium during a Wednesday assembly at Hayden Middle School.
Outgoing state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, had finished giving the students a lesson about flag etiquette, the Constitution and the Fourth of July when he called 12-year-old Heather to the front of the room.
As one of his last official acts as a state legislator, Taylor said, he wanted to present Heather with an award for her patriotism and work with the American Legion in Hayden.
"Heather is one of these young ladies who have taken real interest in the Constitution," Taylor said as he presented Heather with an American flag that was flown over the state Capitol in her honor.
Heather is the youngest member of the American Legion Auxiliary in Hayden, where she helps her mother, Sharon Nereson, with the Girls State sel- ection process. She also assists the Legion by placing flags on graves on Memorial Day.
Heather said she was shocked by the announcement, and she plans to put the award - a certificate and a wrapped flag - on the wall in her bedroom.
Heather was first introduced to Taylor in the fourth or fifth grade, her father, Ron Nereson, said. At that time, she traveled to Denver on a school trip and toured the Capitol with a group led by Taylor.
Ron Nereson went along as a chaperone and said Taylor not only treated the class very well, but also has kept tabs on Heather since that time.
"She shows an interest in more than just herself, and I think down through the years, Jack has seen that," Ron Nereson said.
Taylor also recognized sophomore Delanie Vedepo and senior Caitlin Mahanna, Hayden's representatives in the American Legion Oratorical Contest.
On March 7, Vedepo and Mahanna will travel to DeVry University in Westminster to take part in the first round of the competition.
From there they may advance to regional, state and national oratorical contests.
All speeches must focus on an aspect of the Constitution with an emphasis on obligation of the duties of citizens, according to the National Oratorical Contest Web site.