WASHINGTON, DC (WLOX) - Excitement swirled around Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport Wednesday, as the children's museum received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service at the White House.
Ears perked up the moment First Lady Michelle Obama mentioned the South Mississippi center; pointing out its innovative programs, resilience after Hurricane Katrina, and impact on today's youth.
For staff members, earning the national award stirred up emotions.
"It was very exciting. We live-streamed it here in the museum," said Sonja Gillis, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center spokeswoman.
As word spread about the honor, visitors were thrilled.
"I think it's great. They definitely deserve it, it's a great place," said Ashley Thompson.
Lynn Meadows was one of 10 recipients of the medal. It is the highest honor given to museums and libraries for their outstanding contributions to the community.
The first lady also focused on recent Gulfport High graduate Brandon Spann, who joined Lynn Meadows Executive Director Cindy DeFrances in accepting the award. Brandon credits the center's Wings Performing Arts program for encouraging him to stay in school.
Recently, Spann became the first person in his family to graduate from high school. The scholars want to continue to college, and major in drama.
"I actually teared up just hearing her talk about us, and Gulfport, and Brandon," said Gillis. "It was just very emotional."
Inspiring families and sparking imaginations, the small museum has a huge impact on the lives of young people.
"Oh, it's great. I hope it makes people want to come here, and maybe inspire people to open up these in different places, because it is a great place for these kids," said Thompson.
Lynn Meadows is hosting a community celebration on June 16. The event is free to the public and the medal will be on display.
That same day, the museum will dedicate its new outdoor exhibit. The addition features the Ship Island Lookout with a weather station, telescope, and educational signs about wildlife and the Barrier Islands.
Families can explore the outdoors along a walkway around the property, and check out the native plants and a musical garden. There will be different activities about art and nature each day.