Panther Valley High School senior Andrew Tucker was recently named a recipient of the 2010 Pennsylvania House of Representatives Scholarslhip.

Tucker, a native of Lansford, was one of two students given the award, the other being Joseph Hines, of Mechanicsburg.

"It's always a pleasure to see a Carbon County student move on to higher education, but even more so when it's one of our students joining this very exclusive club," Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Keith McCall said in a press release. "We're all proud of Mr. Tucker ... and I know this money – along with the great Carbon County work ethic – will be a huge help for him as he begins his college career."

The scholarship was awarded by The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, a Harrisburg-based nonprofit organization. An independent panel of the foundation's members reviewed close to 200 applications, judging students from all across the state on criteria including financial need, leadership and extracurricular activities.

"Andrew was the leading student in all categories," Janice Black, the CEO and president of the Foundation, said. "He's a very well-rounded young man."

Tucker first learned of the scholarship program through an advertisement in The Times News. As part of the application process, he was required to write an essay about William Penn's influence on the United States Constitution, a topic chosen specifically by members of the House.

"It was really great to win this award," Tucker said. "It was a huge honor and it will really help me financially."

Students receiving the scholarships are able to use the money for tuition and other fees at any Pennsylvania college or university. Approximately $2,500 is given to the winning student each year for four years – a sum based on the average cost of a semester at a State System of Higher Education institution – , provided he or she maintains a set grade point average.

Each yearly scholarship awarded by the foundation is generated through fundraising activities and donations collected from Pennsylvania House members. No tax dollars are included.

Next fall, Tucker will attend Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, where he will pursue a degree in physical therapy.

"Andrew is a such a strong student and has such a strong character that it doesn't surprise me that he has been selected for this, or any other, awards process," Joseph Gunnels, the principal of PVHS, said. "I'm thrilled for him and his family."

Tim Grazio, the director of guidance for the high school, shared Gunnels's sentiments.

"Andrew's one student that's really got it together," he said. "I can tell that he's on the way to success."

At PVHS, Tucker is a member of the football and track teams as well as the school's chapter of the National Honor Society. Recently, Tucker placed second in the discus event at the District XI Track and Field Meet, and will be moving on to the state competition.

If nothing else, Tucker's recent good fortune has taught him the importance of applying for scholarships, something he encourages his peers to do regularly.

"There's so much money out there for students, all you need to do is look," he said. "It definitely paid off for me."