Arianna Spinney, Age 17, Mullica Hill, New Jersey

Arianna, the oldest of 2 children in her family, aspires to go to medical school and may choose to become a veterinarian or to go into another science field. She says, “I would love to make an impact on this world. I would like to choose the medical path because of my diet and my love for living things. When I first took biology, my teacher told me about amino acids, enzymes and the processes they go through to make the human body function. I learned that phe is one of the 20 amino acids in the body and the enzyme that breaks down phe does not function correctly in my body. This was the moment that I realized I wanted to go into a medical field.”

Arianna has excellent grades in a difficult program including many honors and advanced placement classes. She is a member of the National Honor Society and through the organization has volunteered to help others and raise money for a variety of charities. She was on her school’s Girls Tennis Team all four years and was team captain, excelling in the sport as one of the school’s top players. She was a 4-year member of the Latin club and participated in numerous fundraisers for the school through the club. She belonged to Science League as a senior, has volunteered for 5 years at a veterinary hospital and created multiple fundraisers for Pet Saves, an organization whose goal is to keep stray cats and dogs out of kill shelters. She volunteers in her church and has participated in two mission trips with an organization called Erin’s Gift of Hope. She was a member of her school’s Vocal Ensemble for 4 years. In 2015 she won the “Miss Mantua Pageant” and for 4 years has been involved in leadership, team building skills and public speaking. She also worked as a lifeguard for 2 summers.

Arianna maintains very low blood phe levels despite a low tolerance for phe. She says, “Every day I limit myself to specific portions of food in order to stay on diet. If I eat a high protein food item I then compensate by eating low protein food for the rest of the day or until my protein intake has balanced out. When I go to school I bring my formula and pack a lunch. Sometimes I have to explain why I bring my lunch or what’s in my thermos but I’m quite used to it and enjoy talking about my metabolic disorder to those who are unaware.” She adds, “PKU has influenced my life for the better. Sure my diet is hard, but the pros outweigh the cons. One benefit I’ve found is that I don’t eat other living things. I do believe animals are important to our survival as a race and decreasing their population is going to hurt us in the future. I also feel my diet makes me healthier than a lot of people around me. PKU also helped me to come out of my shell and talk to others with PKU or explain PKU to people with no understanding. I now know I’m different because of my diet, but there is nothing wrong with that. I’m still capable of anything I put my mind to.”

Says a teacher, “Arianna is an open-minded individual who readily accepts others. She demonstrates willingness to listen to divergent viewpoints without hostility or judgement. She is independently motivated and performs successfully whenever she tackles an assignment or program. She is an asset to an environment where interpersonal tasks are expected and encouraged. She sets personal goals and endeavors to see that they are fulfilled and helps to establish group goals and adds her voice, her talents, and her dedication to group tasks and activities. Another says, “Arianna is a highly motivated and determined student who grasps new concepts quickly, actively participates in class discussions, and consistently scores well in all areas.” In addition, a teacher relates that “Arianna has a very positive nature and calming demeanor, always pleasant and smiling. Arianna does not just put on a show for us; she is genuinely a good person. I have observed her with her peers and she is always laughing and engaged and having a good time. I am confident that Arianna is going to be very successful in college.”