Sydney Barba, age 18, Virginia Beach, VA

Sydney BarbaSydney is currently a freshman at the University of Florida studying Microbiology and Cell Science with a minor in Anthropology. Her ultimate goal is to study medicine, specifically Genetics, in order to work with children who have genetic disorders in a clinical setting with possibly laboratory research connected. An outstanding student in high school, Sydney earned a 4.3 weighted grade point average with many difficult AP courses, and graduated with honors at Bayside High School’s Health Sciences Academy in the top 5% of her class. She has continued this trajectory of academic excellence in college. 

In keeping with her interest in medicine, Sydney was an active member of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and is currently part of her college’s HOSA chapter. She was president of the Science Club her senior year and played varsity sports throughout high school (volleyball, swimming, track and field) and was captain of the swim team her senior year. All four years of high school she participated in the school’s Health Sciences Academy. She took many health-related  courses in addition to other non-health AP subjects and excelled in all of them, becoming a College Board AP Scholar as well as receiving AP achievement awards in Physics, History, Spanish, Comparative Anatomy, Hereditary Medicine, Pathophysiology and Human Geography. She is active in her church and loves to volunteer in the community such as at Ronald McDonald’s House, assisting in preparing and serving meals at shelters and soup kitchens, visiting retirement homes, and participating in numerous charity events and walk-a-thons through her school. Her work with the Special Olympics is her favorite volunteer activity. She works part-time at the University of Florida’s Dining Services and has worked as a summer lifeguard where she especially enjoys her interaction with young children.

Her diet is very strict, limited to just 300 mg phe per day, and she weighs every single item she eats on a portable gram scale and logs her intake in a notebook in order to maintain outstanding blood phe levels. When she was younger, she relates that she felt PKU was a “curse”. But gradually she began feeling more comfortable with her diet and telling people about it during her junior year in high school, when she was asked to educate a pathophysiology class on PKU. Now she says, “Living with PKU has inspired me to pursue a career in the world of genetics and I hope to inspire others to accept their differences and move on with life.” Her clinic says “She is a dietitian’s dream” and at the age of 12 years was managing her own diet and helping her parents manage her younger sister’s diet as well. She participated in her care with a maturity that was beyond her years. She is truly a role model of how PKU can be managed and makes it seem effortless. She is one of those special patients who has a skill for managing this challenging diet, a delightful personality, a drive for academic excellence, and an ability to relate to and help others with PKU.”

A teacher comments, “Sydney combines intellectual brilliance with a strong social conscience and an intense desire to learn and apply her learning. She is a wonderful person to teach and to work with, with a great sense of humor to balance her intellectual pursuits.” Another says, Sydney graduated with a stellar GPA of over a 4.0 in a program that is a rigorous college prep program designed for students who are interested in the medical or health sciences. In the classroom, Sydney often took the leader role when working on medical case studies or team activities and was a true joy in the classroom, always. She asked provocative questions and always completed all of her assignments with diligence and care. As soon as you meet Sydney, you know she is a strong young woman with solid convictions and is capable of performing any task without reservation. She is a real leader and I could always count on any job being done right if Sydney was in charge! She is loved and respected by all of her teachers and peers. Her dedication, beautiful smile, sweet demeanor, and kind heart will make her an outstanding medical professional.”