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The Missouri History Museum has won the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s top honor of its kind. The program, called Teens Make History, was one of 12 winners among more than 350 nominations across the country.

The designation comes with a $10,000 cash prize.

Elizabeth Pickard, director of the museum’s interpretive programs, and Amesha Payne, a Teens Make History student and senior at Carnahan High School, accepted the award from First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

Teens Make History, founded by Pickard in 2007, brings students from across the region to the museum after school to research, write and perform plays, and build exhibits. “It’s not just a feel-good project,” Pickard said from Washington. “They’re doing real work for the museum.”

Teens apply for the paid, long-term “apprenticeship” after finishing an eight-week introductory academy at the museum. They then work as a member of either the TMH Players, which research, write, and perform plays, or the TMH Exhibitors, which build exhibitions, including oral history interviews.

Payne, 17, called her trip to Washington a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” and said she was thrilled to be involved in the program.

“It’s a real job to me,” she said. “We’re discussing issues we want the community to know.”

Officials said the museum has never before won this award. In 1994, it won a national award for museum services.