For only the second time ever, a Huntsville student was awarded the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement.
JROTC Cadet Weixing Zhang of New Century Technology High School was presented the award, which is the second-highest honor a JROTC Cadet can receive.
Each year, the award is given based on academic and military leadership and honors, discipline, courtesy and character. Cadets are nominated internationally, and only 75 are selected.
Zhang is a senior at New Century Technology High School, where she is the current battalion commander for the Lee/New Century General Battalion and the state JRTOC army vice president.
Zhang was shocked to win the award.
"I never imagined getting an award, such a prestigious award," Zhang said.
Zhang is the second person ever from Huntsville to win the Bronze Cross. The last person who won also went to New Century High School.
As a senior, there's no doubt JROTC has helped Zhang outgrow who she was a freshman.
"I was shy; I was timid," Zhang said. "I did not know how much impact the program would have on me."
Her JROTC instructor, Diane Richie, has seen her growth over the years. It's growth that has helped transform Zhang into a winner.
"Just the tenacity — she doesn’t quit," Richie said. "Coming in second isn’t an option for her."
Richie couldn’t help but be proud of Zhang, particularly when it comes to her commitment to education.
"This young lady, she managed to get a 35 on her ACT, and her honor point average was 4.87, believe it or not," Richie said.
While Zhang's discipline played a role in these achievements, she was more than happy to give credit to Richie.
Richie is the "strongest person I know," Zhang said. "She inspires me every day. Like strive for greatness. She is the person who brought me out of my comfort zone. She’s more than an instructor. She’s like family."
As far as Zhang's future is concerned, Richie has no worries about her award-winning student.
"How will she do? Amazing. Amazing."
As a high school senior, Zhang is already taking college courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After she graduates high school, she plans to attend MIT or the Military Academy at West Point and major in computer science.