Source: WRAL

Virginia Ward has spent her life exploring nature in North Carolina. Now, her years of appreciation is being recognized by the prestigious George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, WRAL reports.

The 15-year-old high school sophomore is the only youth to receive the award. According to WRAL, there are 419 national parks and nearly 300,000 volunteers, putting her among an elite group. 

Her work centers around the Blue Ridge Parkway where she aids plant ecologist Dr. Chris Ulrey studying rare plants. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the second most visited national park site in the country.

Ulrey says that Ward is a special presence at the Parkway.

“In my 21 years with the National Park Service, I have not encountered a young person that so inspired and filled me with hope about the future,” Ulrey said.

Read the full story from WRAL.