Erica Schwarz has made it a priority to see the beauty in life and inspire others around her to do the same.
Schwarz, a senior at Sahuarita High School, is a member of many clubs and organizations, in and outside school, and has volunteered with numerous organizations in the Tucson area.
Her dedication to community service, along with her academic accomplishments, earned her the U.S. Presidential Scholar award, which was given to 141 students from across the country.
Schwarz is the only student from Southern Arizona who received the honor.
The announcement was made through a news release from U.S. Rep. Ron Barber's office.
About 3,300 students qualified for the award, which is given to a boy and a girl from each state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Americans abroad, as well as 15 at-large recipients and 20 students named Presidential Scholars in the arts.
The other student from Arizona who received the award attends Basis Scottsdale.
"I was really surprised," Schwarz said. "I know the caliber of the award is really high."
Schwarz plans to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to study biomedical engineering.
At school, Schwarz is vice-president of the National Honor Society, a member of the school's "Do Something" club, concert master of the school orchestra and a part of the school's drama club, among other activities, she said.
She is also vice-president of the Sahuarita Teen Advisory Council and has volunteered at Diamond Children's Center.
"I wanted to do something to reach out to others because they deserve to see" the beauty in life, she said.
Schwarz's charisma spreads to the classroom, where she inspires students and teachers.
"She's highly motivated and exceptionally bright, someone who reminds you of everything you love about literature and writing," said Lori Punske, who was Schwarz's advanced placement English teacher for her junior year. "Sometimes people think of scholars as reclusive and aloof. But Erica is tied to everyone."
"I wanted to do something to reach out to others because they deserve to see the beauty in life."
Erica Schwarz, senior at Sahuarita High School
Contact reporter Jamar Younger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger