Marissa Bergeron, Age 18, Westfield, Indiana

Marissa, the oldest of 3 children, graduated from high school with an Academic Honors Diploma taking a rigorous program of honors and advanced placement classes. She wants to study Business with an emphasis on either marketing or accounting, with the ultimate dream of working for a tech company or a sports and fashion related business. Stimulated by an advanced placement Environmental Science course, one of her goals in life is “to make the biggest difference possible by educating others about what we need to fix as a society in order not to reach the ecological tipping point.” She is glad that her PKU diet “helps preserve the environment because I do not eat dairy or meat. Being vegan does more than save the lives of animals, since plants are the lowest on the food chain, less energy is wasted and required to produce that food.”

Marissa maintains excellent low blood phe levels, keeping to a strict diet, and says about her PKU, “Everyone in this world has at least one obstacle to overcome, and this is just my version of an obstacle. I hardly think about the fact that I have PKU and I would rather not because it does not define or control me. It always surprises me when people feel sorry for me, that I can’t eat what they are eating, because that doesn’t matter to me. The true purpose of food is to give your body what it needs to function, so why would it matter to others that I eat salad but not chicken? With PKU I have daily practice with self-control. I will never see PKU as a hindrance because if controlled, it can be quite the opposite in many ways.” Since she was in fourth grade, she has been calculating her own phe intake, keeping track of her own diet and packing her own lunch. Now, she is mainly responsible for making her own meals.

Marissa, who is an excellent student achieving a weighted 3.85 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society. She is also a member of DECA (an international nonprofit organization designed to build leadership skills) and has competed at the state competition (receiving fifth place) and also the international competition, honing her communication skills. She was a member of her high school Junior Varsity Tennis Team and was awarded “most Improved Tennis Player” Marissa has won numerous academic awards throughout high school. She also works part-time, babysits and volunteers at her church through the student ministry program and in the community.

Says one teacher, Marissa is an incredible young person whose hard work both in and outside of the classroom set her apart from her peers. Aside from her academic excellence, her contributions without our school and community, Marissa cares deeply for others, never making anything about herself, and does not let boundaries define or inhibit her. Though she lives with PKU, she focuses on the positives, digs in, and lives fully.”