It started with local awards. Then came regional honors. And then Matt Heflin received the highest honor awarded in the 2014 American Advertising Awards (AAA).

Heflin, a PSU graphic design major who graduated in May, received a Gold Award for his design of Brew Chew, a product he describes as “an after-beverage gum.”

Now a professional designer at Leggett & Platt in Carthage, Mo., Heflin was one of 20 students nationwide to receive a Gold ADDY Award. More than 40,000 entries were submitted to the AAA this year.

“The whole experience was incredibly surreal,” Heflin said. “The honor of receiving that type of award didn’t sink in until the night of the ceremony and realizing that there were only a handful of students that were being honored.”

Heflin, an Oswego native, credited the faculty and staff at PSU for his success.

“I have nothing but gratitude to God for this gift and to my family, department and teachers,” he said. “The competition at that level was fierce, and I am truly blessed to have been a part of it. We have an incredible graphics and imaging department at Pitt State, and I’m so happy I landed there.”