Some students are recognized for their academic efforts or their accomplishments on the field or court. Some succeed on stage or garner accolades as a part of the band or choir.
At Pequot Lakes High School, Principal Aaron Nelson sought to recognize a different kind of student for more intangible reasons: A great work ethic and a willingness to help those around him.
That student is junior Matthew Armstrong.
“He’s one of those ‘behind the scenes’ kids,” Nelson said. “He’s quiet, but he stands out because he has that pleasant demeanor and he is a reliable kid. You just know he is going to try having a good day.”
Several teachers describe Armstrong as a “good kid” who is “mature beyond his years.” He was also described as respectful, considerate of others and - above all else - genuine.
The reason for this reputation are six words instilled in him for years.
“Do your best. Be your best,” Armstrong said. “My grandma tells me that every morning when I come to school, and it’s just how I look at things.”
The junior has attended Pequot Lakes School since eighth grade and credits his father and his grandmother for instilling in him a work ethic that sees him do his best to help others in class, whether it is in industrial arts or physical education.
“I would say I am one of those students who doesn’t really look like they would fit into a certain group,” Armstrong said. “You have the sports people and the really smart people, and I would say I’m somewhere in between, but I’m easy to get along with.”
Armstrong is in Kristen Harsha’s seventh-hour Individual and Team Sports class. With it being at the end of the day, many students are getting ready to leave and can be focusing on their plans for the rest of the day. However, without fail, Armstrong will help Harsha put away equipment and attend to whatever tasks need to be done.
"He is willing to go out of his way to help anyone,” Harsha said. “He is always there, ready to assist in any way he can, even without being asked.”
With a passion for mechanics and engine repair, Armstrong hopes to become a machinist or diesel mechanic after graduation. If his teachers are to be believed, any shop willing to hire him would be lucky to have him.
“Despite what people might say about the collective student body, there are a lot that are really standing out who could really be an asset to employers,” Harsha said. “(Armstrong) can show the community that there are nice, talented kids here that are able to do the things that might not get recognized.
“He is a quiet kid, but you notice him because he does the right thing.”