Name the community service project, and Erika Tumar has probably been involved in it. Beach cleanups, walks to support cures for various diseases, fund raisers at school, she’s helped to organize all of those events multiple times.
Her favorite cause, though, is the community garden around the corner from Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes. Erika volunteers countless hours there, planting and weeding and harvesting vegetables which are donated to senior citizens at a nursing home and to people who have trouble making ends meet.
Gardening brings Erika back to her roots.
“It kinda brought me back to a place of humility where I was just like, I know what it’s like to not have everything that you want, so me giving, it warmed my heart up a little bit because I’m helping somebody, I’m feeding people, I’m feeding the community,” Erika said.
At Boyd Anderson High, everyone knows Erika.
“I’m the face, I’m the face of the school,” Erika said, laughing.
She was voted “Miss Boyd Anderson,” but that hasn’t gone to Erika’s head for a second. She’s too busy excelling in the rigorous International Baccalaureate magnet program, leading the Sister to Sister service club, and impressing everyone with her reliability and persistence.
“If there’s a project that needs to be done, and it looks like it’s not going to happen, she is going to ensure that it happens,” said Lashondra Taylor, a teacher and sponsor of the Sister to Sister club.
Taylor says she spotted Erika’s leadership potential as a freshman, and says in four years, Erika has become a model of responsibility.
“I want to be, you know, something good for my community, myself, for my family, somebody they can look up to and I can look up to myself as well,” Erika said.
Erika’s one of the leaders of the Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders program, setting an example for her younger peers to follow.
“She’s a role model because even after she fails, she keeps striving to do better, she never gives up,” said Elijah Derico, a freshman who says Erika inspired him to try harder in his classes.
“She’s good at everything she does, if she tries something or she does something, she puts all her effort in it, you know?” said Brena Davis, another freshman who has benefitted from peer counseling sessions with Erika.
Erika is the kid who’s never not on the honor roll, the student who flies over every hurdle.
“Even though she lost her mom, she has never used that as an excuse for anything,” Taylor said.
In fact, you could say losing her mom just before high school started fuels Erika’s ambition.
“I know what it’s like to struggle with financial issues, I know what it’s like to struggle losing a parent so that was definitely my motivation because every day I would think, what would my mom want me to do?” said the senior, bound for the University of Central Florida in the fall.
We’re assuming her mom would want Erika to be doing what she’s already doing: on the path to becoming a doctor one day, and always looking for ways to help others along the way.