2019 Scholarship Winner

Student Spotlight

Erika Swanson

Name: Erika Swanson

Age: 17

Grade: 12

State: Minnesota

First Became Member in Mu Eta Sigma: 2015

Describe why you enjoy math: There is much that can be accomplished with math—both in daily life and in a variety of careers. Math always builds upon itself; once you learn and conquer one idea, you can only learn more from there. Last semester especially, I enjoyed learning new statistics concepts and using my graphing calculator. If I have difficulties grasping a concept, I continue to work on problems until I understand the reasoning and process. The “aha” moments I have once I understand new concepts are the best parts of studying math.

Describe how you anticipate using math in your future: I am planning to major in biology, and I am considering field research as part of my education and career. This will require the use of statistics, biology, possibly some calculus, and other mathematical skills to analyze trends.

I have been involved in my community through the following service projects:


  • Education Crew and Lobby Assistant at The University of Minnesota Raptor Center: Greeted visitors, answered guest questions, and assisted staff with various tasks as needed. Formally monitored and reported behavior of aging birds. Assisted with summer day camps. Guest blogger for online newsletter and regular contributor to citizen science projects.


  • Naturalist Youth Leader at Three Rivers Park District (Eastman Nature Center and Gale Woods Farm): Attended training sessions; engaged children with animals and nature, supervised lunch hours, and led games during summer day camps; volunteered at seasonal events and nature monitoring projects.


  • Volunteer for Northwest Homeschool Athletic Cooperative:  Helped coaches establish Minnesota’s first high school league-sanctioned homeschool athletic teams (cross country and track & field). Assisted with clerical tasks, registration, database management, equipment inventory, trail maintenance, publicity, fundraising, and awards banquets. Co-coordinated Nighthawk “Cross Country Junior” cross country fun runs for elementary students.


  • Volunteer at RiverWorks thrift store and food shelf: sorted donated items; organized and displayed merchandise; various clerical projects and other help as requested.

My favorite project was volunteering for the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, for the following reason: I have always loved birds, so I enjoy spending time at the Raptor Center. I clean mews and transport carriers, prepare food for the raptors, greet guests, answer questions, organize and restock the gift shop, and assist the staff with various tasks. Last summer, I helped with a summer camp, where I taught children about my favorite animals. Another highlight is volunteering at the annual fall raptor release; I answer questions and keep items in stock in the gift shop, but all of us volunteers take a break to watch the release of rehabilitated raptors.

I have set the following goals for myself for the next:


  •  1 year: Run cross country at the collegiate level and break 23:30 in the 6k. Run track at the collegiate level and compete at Conference. Start my biology degree and earn high grades to get a strong start in college. Communicate with my family during college, and support my siblings in their running.


  • 5 years: Complete my biology degree and consider applying to graduate school. Find work in a career I enjoy, such as an interpretive naturalist, zookeeper, or wildlife researcher. Continue to run, compete in road races, and support my high school homeschool team. Call and visit my parents and siblings so I can maintain healthy relationships throughout my life.

My parents have inspired me to consider: Running cross country and track & field in high school and college.

My favorite subject in school is, or has been: Ornithology (bird biology)

My favorite extra-curricular activity is, or has been: Cross country and track

The most challenging thing I have ever experienced is: An articulated chicken skeleton project. After harvesting my meat chickens, I saved one (including the head). I cut and boiled off the meat, degreased and bleached the bones, and wired and glued the skeleton back together. This project took over 40 hours from start to finish.

My greatest accomplishment to date has been: The Congressional Award Gold Medal. The Gold Medal requires a minimum of a two-year commitment, 200 hours of physical fitness, 200 hours of personal development, 400 hours of volunteer service, and a four-night expedition.