The last year or so haven't been easy for River Falls High School junior Mariah Kittleson and her family. The Kittlesons were homeless for about a year and are just getting settled into their new home and school district. But all the hard times make the good even better, especially when Kittleson found out she had been nominated by her school counselors to be a Delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Boston, Mass., June 25-27.
"I'm so proud of myself. I really didn't think I would be able to accomplish something this big," Mariah said. "I didn't get good grades as a kid, I tried really hard and the best I could, but I just couldn't get my grades up. But with some tutoring help I was finally able to get past that. It also helped that I really liked my science classes and found something I was good at."
The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields. The purpose of this event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be physicians or medical scientists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goals.
"Zoology was probably the class that made me want to go into the medical field and become a surgeon," Kittleson said. "We got to dissect a lot of animals and learned all about the anatomy of animals and what makes them different. That was something I really liked and found interesting."
Kittleson — who wants to become a surgeon in the military — was nominated by Dr. Robert Darling, the Medical Director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists to represent River Falls based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.
"Blood has never bothered me and I've always been the first person to help my sisters with their scrapes and bruises," Mariah said. "Me: I like to help every body. If I see something that needs to be done, I do it. I'm also an artist, so I have a very steady hand. And I've been thinking about going into the military because it has always been something I've wanted to be a part of due to how involved my family has been in the past on both sides."
The three day Congress will see Kittleson and her fellow delegates hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; be given advice from Ivy League and top medical school deans on what to expect in medical school; witness stories told by patients who are living medical miracles; be inspired by fellow teen medical science prodigies; and learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology.
"I'm excited to be going to Boston and see what else is out there as far as career paths and things I can study," Mariah said. "The trip includes a few seminars and I think I will be following around a surgeon for a day and then I get to watch a live surgery from the gallery."
After completing her time in the military, Kittleson sees herself going to work at a hospital as a surgeon.
"I'm really excited for her and really proud as well," said Mariah's mother, Angie Kittleson. "We have really been there for each other through all of the hard times. She has been so great and you can't believe how proud I am of her. She has always been there for our family, but still been really focused on her school work and been able to do well."
Kittleson will receive college credit for being part of the Congress and her family has paid for the tuition for the Congress — with the help of a partial scholarship — but is still looking for help to pay for the trip to Boston. The family has started a Go Fund Me page (gofundme.com/get-mariah-to-boston) in order to have the funds to get Mariah to the Congress. Those interested in supporting Mariah can go to the Go Fund Me page and make a donation.
"The community has already helped us so much, and I wouldn't ask for more help if it wasn't for Mariah and for something so important to her and her future," Angie said.