Energetic Renton Teen Earns State Notice -- Lindbergh Senior `Believer, Achiever'

RENTON - Let's face it. Most things come pretty easy to Heidi Swift.

So it's only natural she would look for an extra challenge.

That's why she wasn't interested in playing on the Lindbergh High School softball team until it went from slow pitch to fast pitch last year.

And that's why basketball remains her favorite sport, even though it took her three years to make the losing varsity team.

"I've always been good at about everything I do. It's a good experience for me to have to work," says the energetic senior.

Her hard work paid off last week, when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association named Swift the winner of its third annual "Believer and Achiever" award. She will receive a $10,000 college scholarship from the Seven-Up Bottling Co.

Swift is more than a gifted athlete (captain of the league-champion cross-country team), scholar (4.0 average), and a popular 17-year-old (student-body president).

This teen is working hard to make the world a better place.

She has promoted in-school recycling and done cleanups as a member of the school's Environmental Club. She has helped the SKY Club throw parties at a home for developmentally disabled youths.

She has tutored in a YWCA program and served meals at the Denny Youth Shelter. Last summer she cleaned the Auburn YWCA's emergency housing between tenants and spent a week in Tijuana building houses through Habitat for Humanity.

In Tijuana, Swift and other members of her church youth group climbed a hill in the middle of the Mexican city. "As far as you looked, all you could see was these shacks. It was amazing," she recalls. "It made us as Americans realize how much we had and how much we waste compared to how little others had."

After returning to school, she kept her pledge to initiate an Associated Student Body service project each month. The September project is a clothing drive for needy families.

"The ASB hasn't done many community-service projects," she says. "That's something I talked about when I was running for office. That's something I wanted to change. I want to be an ASB president who doesn't just have a title but does something."

She gives much of the credit for her success to her parents, forklift driver Kermit Swift and local newspaper columnist Mary Swift. "My parents are always there. At least one of them tries to be at everything."

She discovered another source of strength when, as a seventh-grader, she found God. "It just hit me that God was really there for me and that when I was having problems, he could help me through them."

Swift is an usher at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, and on Thursday nights she joins an informal group of students for prayer and worship.

To unwind after a hard day, she plays piano.

Principal David Kurth recalls that Swift was elected ASB president "partly as a result of poking fun at the principal and some of the things we were trying to do - but in a fun way and a way that was appropriate."

"She can get a point across good-naturedly, but boy, you get the point," says English teacher Helen Bedtelyon.

That's a skill that will come in handy if Swift achieves her dream of becoming U.S. ambassador to Japan.

In the meantime, she has plenty of other things to do. After completing college, she plans to join the Peace Corps or do other volunteer work for two years.