Among the holiday visitors to New York City this weekend will be 12 high school students, two of whom will be chosen as the Wendy's High School Heisman Award winners for 2008.
The finalists were chosen from 34,000 applicants around the country for their exceptional hard work and dedication to athletics, academics and their communities. The winners will be chosen by a panel from the education, business and sports worlds, as well as former winners of the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top college football player in the U.S.
In addition to the all-expenses-paid trip to New York, each of the 12 finalists will receive a gold medal and a $2,000 donation to his or her high school. The two winners, a boy and a girl, will get an additional $10,000 for their schools.
The finalists will also meet Archie Griffin, the only two-time winner of the Heisman. Griffin played for Ohio State University and was a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976.
Two of the high school finalists were guests on FOXNews.com's Strategy Room on Friday.
Elizabeth Marden, a senior at Olathe East High School in Olathe, Kan., said she was especially excited to meet Griffin and the other Heisman winners.
An all-around athlete, Marden plays tennis and soccer, has been on the track team and is a fall and winter sports cheerleader. In her spare time, she founded a program for students in her community for whom English is a second language.
"We started a tutoring program, and since the time we started it, their reading scores got raised about four points, which is a really big deal for our town," Marden told FOXNews.com.
Washington University in St. Louis, Notre Dame and Princeton are Marden's top choices for college next year, and she hopes to win a spot on the tennis team wherever she goes. She plans to study political science and eventually to go to law school.
Michael Bass, a finalist from Fairmont High School in Fairmont, N.C., will be attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington next year on a baseball scholarship. He was his high school team's MVP and top run-scorer in 2008.
Bass also plays football and basketball and is on the track team, and he nonetheless makes time to volunteer.
"I don’t have much time off the field with four sports. But one of my favorite things is an event we have every year – the Relay for Life. It's a really big deal to me because my mom is a survivor of breast cancer, so getting to raise money every year and knowing I'm helping out is always special to me," he said.
Coming to New York was quite a change from home for Bass. "I'm still in awe because this is such a big change from Fairmont. We have three stop lights in Fairmont," he said. "I don't know if I'd ever come to New York other than for something like this, and it's just great to be here."
The High School Heisman Award winners will be announced on ESPN 2 on Sunday, Dec. 14, and will be recognized during the collegiate Heisman Trophy presentation on Monday, Dec. 15.
The High School Heisman Award program was started in 1994 as a joint venture between Wendy's and the Heisman Memorial Trust.