Hannah O'Hara, an eighth-grade student at Milford Central Academy, was surprised on Monday as she was presented an award in front of her whole class that she didn't even know she won: a national Ambassador Torch Award from the Business Professionals of America.

It was just another Monday lunch period for eighth-grade students at Milford Central Academy, until Principal Nancy Carnevale announced that she had a surprise award for someone.

The rowdy students, who itched to be outside on the sunny spring day, quieted as Carnevale announced that one of their classmates, Hannah O’Hara, had been nationally recognized with an award from the Business Professionals of America Torch Awards Program.

The 14-year-old proudly made her way to the front of her classmates and family, surrounded by clapping and cheering, as she was given the award, which marked the first national BPA award for the Milford School District.

“I do this for Milford because we’re such a great school,” Hannah said as she accepted the award.

Hannah, who received the highest ranking award, the Ambassador Torch Award, has participated in the middle school-level BPA for two years, in addition to her current involvement in 4H Club, student council, FFA, drama club, band, as a manager for the high school tennis team and as a junior member of the Memorial Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary of Slaughter Beach.

But her involvement in BPA wasn’t exactly planned, she explained.

Hannah said her parents motivate her to be involved in as many activities and organizations as she can handle, so when she was looking for something to do in sixth grade, she came across the small club and decided to give it a try.

“I’ve loved it ever since,” she said of the club, which currently has 10 student members. “Ever since I was little, dad would say, ‘Don’t be a follower, be a leader because there’s thousands of followers and you need to be unique.’ The award shows I’m actually doing that. I’m not an everyday person, and it’s really cool.”

Hannah was just as surprised as her classmates with the award, but her family and BPA Advisor Sherry Geesaman said it was well-earned.

“I was there to advise her and answer her questions, but this award was all Hannah,” Geesaman said. “She’s inspiring.”

Hannah’s father, Tom O’Hara, could barely contain his pride for his oldest daughter as he shared stories about how she and her sister, 11-year-old Shannon, work hard at everything they do.

“I’m surprised with the national recognition,” he said, noting that he knew she was receiving an award but not that it was on a national level. “She wants to be the best. To be 14 and to have the drive she has is pretty extraordinary. She’s worked really hard for it.”

Geesaman added that the middle school-level BPA has been growing in recent years, and hopes that Hannah’s national recognition inspires other students to get involved.

“I think it’s part of the kids’ future to be business literate. Being business-oriented pushes kids to do things outside of their comfort zones,” she explained. “Hannah has been a driving force behind what we did this year. She’s just everything you’d want your children to be.”