In many ways, Sandra Paola Medrano, who graduated from Christian Heritage School in Trumbull, Conn., is a typical high-achieving teen. She participated in both symphonic and jazz band as a trumpet player; played JV and varsity soccer, basketball, tennis and softball; and she was in the National Honor Society and student government. She’s completely bilingual in English and Spanish (her parents are from Peru) and “can understand French fairly well, but I can’t speak it.” Paola, as her friends and family call her affectionately, who’s from Bethel, Conn., is also a certified nursing assistant and works in an assisted living community. Not long ago she organized the first-ever blood drive at her high school, and she’s been to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Honduras for community service projects.
Paola’s inspiration is her mom, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight years ago, when Paola was in 4th grade. “I got interested in science because of my mom’s MS. I thought, I’m in the process of deciding my future — why shouldn’t I pursue a career of research in MS?” she asks. “Regardless of whether it’s figuring out a cure or helping someone with MS, I want to do something good and serve others.”
The Society’s 2012 Mike Dugan Scholar, Paola plans to become a physician’s assistant. Her goal is to work with a cross-cultural organization such as Operation Smile or Doctors Without Borders.
“MS has taught me to hope regardless of what is in the present,” she wrote in her scholarship application. “If it were not for MS, I would not have learned how to hope in disaster, or how to trust amidst confusion. MS brought our family closer to each other and closer to God. It has made me prepared for the future, with bright hopes for tomorrow. It has not defeated us, we remain unbroken. MS cannot defeat us.”