Meara Conner, Age 18, Spokane, Washington

Meara, the oldest of 2 children in her family, says she was motivated to apply for a Guthrie-Koch award because of her knowledge of past recipients, “all of whom  have been excellent students, setting a great example for the PKU community and inspiring me to challenge myself.” She just graduated with a rigorous International Baccalaureate diploma as an outstanding student. She plans to pursue a BS degree in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing, with the goal of pursuing a career in publishing and editing. Reading and writing have always been passions for Meara.

She was on the staff as a feature writer for her school’s newspaper from her Sophomore year onward. She was very involved in getting it started and garnering interest and support in the early days. In 2015, she completed a summer course for high school students in Creative Writing at Columbia University.

Meara is very involved with dog care at the Humane Society as a dog walker, and was recently accepted as a dog foster provider. The latter involves around the clock bottle feeding, bathing, and other tasks to care for 3 young Australian Cattle Dog puppies until they are ready for adoption. Personal health and fitness are also very important to Meara, who has attended more than 500 Pilates classes over the past several years. At school, she is part of the Recycling Club, volunteering at her local library, her school’s blood drive, and the Junior Varsity volleyball team.

On a very strict PKU diet, Meara achieves uniformly low blood phe levels and has throughout her life. She is an accomplished cook and enjoys finding recipes that she can modify to be PKU-friendly. She makes her own dinner meals and brings leftovers for lunch. While at Columbia University, she lived in a dorm and successfully managed her diet, a prelude to full-time college life. Meara says of her PKU, “I have always had a very positive attitude about living with PKU; when I was younger, my mom made sure that I developed good management habits, weighing and measuring foods, understanding the amount of phe in the foods that I ate regularly, and drinking my formula. As I’ve gotten older, I have taken on more and more responsibility for my diet. I’ve keep up these habits today because I am very aware of my need for a clear mind in order to keep my grades up. My school’s academic program is so rigorous that if I weren’t keeping my PKU in check, I wouldn’t be able to succeed. PKU has always been a part of my life, so much so that I don’t even register that the habits I have in keeping my PKU in control are different from the way anyone else lives their life.”

Says a teacher, “Meara is an exceptional young woman. Her academic strength lies in the humanities. She read voraciously and writes, too. Her English teachers identify her as one of the best writers in an outstanding class. One teacher praised the ‘grace and elegance’ of her prose as well as her regularly insightful analysis. She says, “Meara has taken on the most challenging schedule we offer and received an International Baccalaureate Diploma, considered one of the most, of not the most, challenging curriculum in the US. I believe Meara will go on to great success in college and beyond.” Another writes, “In addition to her outstanding work ethic, self-motivation and artistic pursuits, Meara has shown herself to be a caring peer. She readily gives support and honest feedback to those around her. She is always willing to help.”