KANSAS CITY, MO.—Economic experts say healthcare will be a growth industry in the U.S. for years to come. And Kansas City is expected to be a major center of that growth. Our Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever this week is getting in the the ground floor of technology that will help drive that growth.
Senior Mary McClannahan spends her mornings at Park Hill High School in demanding classes like Advanced Placement Government. Mary's loaded up on upper level courses, especially advanced math and science, getting great grades and the college credit that comes with many of them.
"She's a motivated young lady," says Assistant Principal Josh Colvin. "I'd say brilliant. Extremely great work ethic."
There's no coasting through school for Mary.
"It's no fun if you do it that way," says Mary. "It's more fun to challenge yourself and you learn much more interesting things."
And so this future engineer is spending weekday afternoons her entire senior at the North Kansas City, MO office complex of Cerner -- the rapidly-growing healthcare technology company. Mary is a Cerner Scholar.
"I'm ecstatic about it," says Mary. Cerner brings on a few area high school students like Mary each year to be Cerner Scholars. It's a major academic honor. And for a high-achieving, ambitious teenager like Mary, it's a chance to work in and learn about the important healthcare industry from the inside.
"They focus on getting real life experiences and seeing what opportunities out there," says Heikki Kangas, Mary's supervisor at Cerner.
"Just all the experiences I get which I suspect will help me and set me apart in years to come in college and in the job world," says Mary about the advantages she gets as a Cerner Scholar.
"She's definitely ahead of the game," says Colvin. And Mary is doing a bang up job for Cerner, doing projects that really matter.
"Absolutely," says Kangas. "Her work is top-notch. Very accurate. Precision. She's very independent. She's able to come into the office and pick up projects right away. She's really done and excellent job."
Mary and other Cerner Scholars also have been building a Cerner website that will be a resource for young people to find out more about healthcare reform and the future of healthcare.
"I feel I have an obligation or a responsibility to inform my generation," says Mary, "because I know many of my classmates don't have any understanding of this because before I did this website, I had no background knowledge and kind of didn't care that much. And now I know a lot more and now I really do care."
Becoming a Cerner Scholar is a major achievement but it is certainly not the only one for Mary. She is a Gold Award recipient in Girls Scouts and has all the badges and patches and the Bronze and Silver Awards to go along with it. It's the highest honor in Girl Scouts, evidence of her terrific talents and dedication and leaderships skills.
"Part of it is to help me stand apart," says Mary, "but for me personally, sometimes there is always going to be that person who says, 'You can't.' And so I've always wanted to say, 'I can.'"
Having loads of fun challenging herself -- learning much more interesting things.
Mary is the first Park Hill District student to be a Cerner Scholar. She's planning to go to MU this fall to study engineering.
You can nominate someone to be a Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever. Go to the main Reaching 4 Excellence page of this website. Past stories are posted there and at the bottom of the page you'll find criteria for the recognition and a form to complete to make a nomination.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.