In November, 1987 the Ames American Legion family joined with Ames High School to create an Academic Awards program. Each Ames High student that met the required criteria was awarded an Academic Letter, a block letter A identical to the athletic letters that were awarded for sports except that this letter featured the lamp of knowledge in place of the athletic symbol.
Past Commander Jack Green was primarily responsible for the creation of this program. His discussions with Ames High leadership on recognizing the scholar-athletes at the school broadened into recognition of all those students who excelled in the classroom.
The criteria to be met were very simple in nature but rigorous in application. The student must be in the junior or senior year of high school, have been resident in the Ames school system for a minimum of one year and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or above.
The first year of meeting these criteria resulted in the student receiving the letter itself. If that happened during their junior year and they maintained the GPA for a second award, the student received a chevron for many years. That second award was later changed to a pin to put on the letter.
A convocation is held each year to honor the students who have achieved this distinction. Originally the ceremony was held during American Education Week. In later years the convocation date has been changed to coincide with the marching band spectacular with the Academic honors convocation kicking off the evening.
All costs for the convocation and letters are paid by the Ames American Legion family The Post Commander, Unit President and Squadron Commander join with the Superintendent of Schools , the High School Principal and a member of the Ames School Board to congratulate and thank the students being honored.
Each year approximately 100 juniors and 100 seniors are honored. In the years since the program started in 1987, that equals nearly 5,600 Ames High students who have been recognized through this program. The program continues to date with 2015 being the 28th year.