Summer Miller isn’t your typical teenage girl.
Because she took auto tech for two years, she can do a lot more to her car than turn the key and pump gas.
But her expertise isn’t limited to things with four wheels – four-hooved creatures also fall within her sphere.
Her days begin before the crack of dawn to tend to her animals – three steers and a heifer – and end in similar fashion well after the sun goes down.
Despite missing a dozen school days trekking across the state to exhibit projects in stock shows, she maintains a 3.58 grade-point average.
And when her mother underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor two years ago, the then 15-year-old learned to shop for groceries, balance a checkbook and pay bills.
These traits were among the reasons the Decatur High School senior last month was named a 2012-2013 finalist for the Discus Awards, a national program that recognizes the “all-around” high school student.
“I think it’s neat that it looks at the all-around student,” her mother, Donna said. “It doesn’t just look at your grades, your community service hours. It gives you a chance to roll it all into one package.”
Students are nominated by teachers or counselors, and they can even nominate themselves for the award. Students then create an online portfolio that outlines their accomplishments in three of 10 attributes – academics, arts, athletics, faith, government, green, service, technology, work and other. Photos and video may be added to support those accomplishments and references submitted for verification.
On the advice of her counselors, Summer created a portfolio to spell out her success in academics, community service and “other achievements.”
As an honor roll student every year since kindergarten, and given her GPA despite the number of absences due to extracurricular involvements, Summer had much to boast for in “academics.”
Awards such as the Community Service 4-Her of the Year and activities such as ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign during the holidays every year since third grade, walking in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life for six years and volunteering at Wise County Animal Clinic for five years backed up her “community service” strength.
And the responsibilities learned and skills garnered through her longtime participation in 4-H (nine years), FFA (five years) and Skills USA (two years) reinforce her qualifications under “other achievements.”
Her portfolio was one of “hundreds of thousands” scored on a performance scale by a panel of judges then selected as a finalist.
Once a student is named a finalist, they become a contender for various scholarships offered by Discus “partners,” or sponsors.
“You’re actually in the running for several scholarships,” Donna said. “It was a huge relief to find out that she was in the running for several opportunities. She’s been raised in a single-parent home, so we need all the help we can get.”
Any scholarships Summer may win will go to offset the expense of attending Clarendon College (where she will continue a seven-year hobby – livestock judging) before transferring to West Texas A&M University in Canyon to study agribusiness or agriscience.
Ultimately, Summer wants to work for the National Limousin Association. That’s the breed of cattle she’s shown, and won with, at the Wise County Youth Fair and stock shows in Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston.
“I’ve always been raised around this stuff, so it’s second nature to me,” she said. “I look forward to continue doing that, and things like the Discus Award will really help.”
To learn more about the Discus Awards, visit www.DiscusAwards.com/winners.