BREWER, Maine — It takes brains to be a Presidential Scholar, that’s a given.

But it also takes a commitment and love of one’s family, school and community to be chosen for one of the nation’s highest honors given to high school seniors.

Erin Mills, a Brewer High School senior, is one of two 2009 Presidential Scholars from Maine announced on Monday, and she fits the bill perfectly those close to her say.

“Her humanity and her passion for helping others by being the quiet leader is amazing,” Principal Becky Bubar said Tuesday. “She’s brilliant.”

It’s believed that Mills, 18, is the first student from Brewer High School to be given the national honor.

The lifelong Brewer resident is an active member of her church, is involved in the high school theater program, is captain of the math team, is on the varsity swim team, and is a teacher’s assistant in her outdoor education class.

Mills named Mark Savage, her outdoor education teacher, her “most influential and challenging teacher” and said Monday that the class changed her life.

“Before that, it was all academics,” she said. Outdoor education has taught her “social skills, leadership and teamwork, how to communicate and trust.”

All are skills she’ll use for the rest of her life, she said, adding, “I love that class.”

Mills, who rafted down the East Branch of the Penobscot River on Sunday as part of Brewer High’s outdoor education class, said choosing to take the class has changed her life for the better.

“It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said.

“Wow,” was Savage’s initial reaction to hearing the news Mills was selected for the honor. “That’s awesome. That’s incredible. That’s outstanding.”

Savage described Mills as kind, considerate, full of energy and a natural leader, and said the list of attributes “just goes on and on with her.”

After Savage heard the news on Monday, he went and found Mills, who was at play practice, and she did what teenage girls do.

“I jumped around and screamed and was really, really excited,” Mills said. “I am totally blessed.”

Jenny Mills, Erin’s mom, said Monday that she is extremely proud of her daughter.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff but I wasn’t surprised — she’s a pretty exceptional girl,” she said.

Mills is heading to Princeton University in New Jersey after graduation to study mechanical engineering, with “almost a full scholarship,” her mom said.

The Presidential Scholars program, established in 1946, was created “to honor the academic excellence, artistic accomplishments, and civic contributions of exemplary graduating high school students,” U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud said in a Monday press release.

In the statement he congratulated Mills and Michael Girouard, a Lewiston senior at St. Dominic Regional High School, the other Maine senior selected as a 2009 Presidential Scholar.

The two Mainers were chosen from 3,000 nominees. Nationally, 141 seniors were selected, a boy and a girl from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, along with 15 chosen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Girouard is no stranger to academic awards.

He has won a Michael Welch Scholarship at St. Dominic Regional High School in Auburn, the Principal’s Award from the Maine Principals’ Association, and a Tyng Scholarship, the most prestigious award given to an incoming student at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Still, the 18-year-old St. Dom’s senior didn’t think he really had a chance at becoming a Presidential Scholar. It is an illustrious award and the competition is fierce.

“Reading some of the information they sent, ‘This is the highest honor the Department of Education gives to a high school senior,’ I thought it might be sort of a stretch [for me],” Girouard said.

It turned out it wasn’t a stretch at all.

Girouard, who plans to study biology at Williams College in the fall, chose Peggy DeBlois, who taught his English class in seventh, eighth and 12th grades, as his most influential teacher. Mills and Girouard, along with Savage and DeBlois, will head to Washington, D.C., in June where the teachers will be presented with a Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lindsay Tice of the Lewiston Sun Journal contributed to this report.