Overcoming Health Challenges with Optimism and Perseverance, WHS 2022 Grad Wins National Fed. of State HS Assoc. “Heart of the Arts Award”

New England Section win makes Luke Schwartz one of only seven people honored in 2022 who 'exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts and represent the core mission of education-based activities." .

Luke Schwartz (second from right) was nominated by his photography teacher Susanne Brandt (second from left). photo: Wilton High School

Without a doubt, Class of 2022 Wilton High School graduate Luke Schwartz has left his mark on Wilton. Now, as the 2021-22 school year closes out, he has been recognized for his years of extensive involvement and achievement in the arts and community service as well as the extraordinary challenges he overcame in those pursuits. Earlier this month, Schwartz was honored with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Heart of the Arts Section One Award.

Schwartz was nominated by Wilton High School photography teacher Susanne Brandt.

“I was surprised when art teachers reached out and said they nominated me. It was a great honor to be nominated and to receive the award,” says Schwartz, who has pursued a passion for photography and the arts in general.

In addition to his involvement in the arts, Schwartz has shown incredible dedication to his community through acts of service. “What has really impressed me about him is his effervescent optimism. He’s thrown himself into service for others,” Wilton Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith said in a video about Schwartz’s award.

Early on in the COVID pandemic, Schwartz devised a plan and rallied friends and family to utilize Wilton High School’s 3D printers to create KN-95 masks for healthcare workers at Stamford and Norwalk Hospitals amidst shortages.

“It’s nice to see him doing things for the right reasons. It’s not to pad a resume or get into the right college. It’s because he genuinely feels he should be doing this,” Cindy Cherico, WHS math teacher, said in the video.

Smith recounted how Schwartz was at WHS “… morning noon and night, he’s participating with the video production club, he is deeply involved with our arts classes …  He’s an incredible go-getter.”

Since his freshman year, in addition to photography, he has been very active in the production of “The Morning Warrior,” WHS’ student-produced televised news program.

As if all of this wasn’t impressive enough on its own, Schwartz has balanced his pursuits all while dealing with rare challenges that most students will never face. It started when he was out for much of his eighth-grade year after being diagnosed with dysautonomia, a neurological disorder that impairs neural functioning and often involves failure of the nervous system.

Three years later, during his junior year, Schwartz received another alarming diagnosis: a rare form of thyroid cancer, which had nothing to do with his other medical history. While this has made things far more difficult for Schwartz, he has persevered. Currently, Schwartz’s health is in a stable condition.

WHS Principal Bob O’Donnell spoke highly of Schwartz in the video: “I believe firmly that he has a rare mindset, a level of mental toughness and perseverance to say he’s been given some tough challenges and he has learned to adapt. The future has no limit for this young man, he is going to go on and do something amazing.”

“The school has definitely been very supportive. Every time I’m out or anything, they always reach out. So that’s really nice,” says Schwartz. “Thanks to the school, Mrs. Brandt, and the rest of the art department for all the help they’ve given me. And for the nomination.”

In the fall, Schwartz will go on to the University of Vermont where he intends to study business. In addition to the Heart of the Arts Award, Schwartz was also presented with the Dr. Bob Jacobs Award for leaving his mark at Wilton High School.

Schwartz was one of two students selected by the Connecticut Association of Schools as Heart of the Arts award recipients for the State of Connecticut; he was later named the sole recipient of the NFHS Section 1 Award for the Northeast region, beating out nominees from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

A video produced by the Connecticut Association of Schools tells Luke’s story online.

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