TAYLOR, Neb. — Loup County High School is off the beaten path. It’s tucked away in the tiny town of Taylor, which is home to fewer than 200 people. The junior class has just seven students. But on Monday, two them and their teacher earned international recognition. 

That’s Norm Conard and he’s from the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. He was in Taylor for a surprise assembly to honor Angel Estrada for being one of 14 finalists for the center’s Discovery Award. 

“It was just unreal. I was speechless," Estrada said. "I was just feeling all sorts of emotions.”

And he was there to present Madison Glidden with the outstanding high school project award.

“When he called me down, I was like, ‘oh my gosh,’" Glidden said. "And then he said international and I was like, ‘I won!’”

The competition challenges students to make a documentary, performance or website that tells the story of an unsung hero. Angel made a documentary on Dr. Elizabeth Catlett.

“We have similar interests, she’s an artist and I’m very into art as well," Estrada said. "We come from the same background. So I knew that she kind of clicked and I knew I wanted her story to be heard.”

Madison’s documentary profiled Dr. Susan La Flesche.

“She wanted to help her people in every way that she could," Glidden said. "No matter how she was feeling, she wanted to make other people feel better and I want to do that.”

The Central Nebraska school is building a dynasty in the competition. Loup County’s Gracie Conrad won the overall grand prize last year.

“We have had winners from New York, California, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa — many places," Conard said. "But not one school with two winners, two years in a row.”

The school’s improbable success comes under the tutelage of teacher Megan Helberg. She received an outstanding educator award from the center.

“That was quite the surprise as well, he left that part out when we were going back and forth about the kids receiving their awards," Helberg said. "It’s an incredible honor to just even be associated with the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.”

Helberg says the awards are a reflection of the community and the school.

“We want people to know that our little, tiny school public school is a quality school," Helberg said. "We are doing quality projects, we have students that are here competing on the top stage of the whole nation and the whole world.”