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Park City student honored

Frank Fisher Of the Record StaffLast year, Laura Slusser was nominated for the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award for exemplary achievement. This year, Slusser won the award, chosen as the sole Utah recipient.
Laura Slusser received the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award for exemplary achievement in front of her classmates on Fri. 6.
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Slusser, 12, an Ecker Hill International Middle School student, has had her share of highs in her lifetime. She has also had her share of lows, battling health issues that almost took her life. But she seemed to take her fragile health in stride, instead focusing her energy on promoting stem-cell research, so someday other kids won’t have to go through what she went through.

Slusser was recognized for the award while in her Spanish class on last Friday.

"To get this in front of my classmates was really special to me," she said. "Mr. Proffit is the greatest principal I’ve ever had."

"Oh my gosh, I was so excited to see her win," Chris Fournier, of the Park City School District said. "I almost felt, how could she not win."

Paul Shepherd, president, and Joan Bramble, president-elect of the Utah Association for Gifted Children took part in the presentation, which honors students in third grade through sixth grade for achievement in academics, leadership and the arts.

Slusser developed Type-1 diabetes in 2002, and then her kidneys failed while she and her family were on a Caribbean cruise. For a child to develop diabetes and experience kidney failure is extremely rare. Doctors believed there was no connection between the dual occurrences. They determined she needed both a kidney and pancreas transplant.

Slusser was on dialysis three days per week for three hours at a time and had to give herself insulin injections five to eight times a day. While on dialysis, she began to promote stem cell research, which potentially could help those with diabetes and other diseases. She won a trip to Washington, D.C., as a result of a drawing she made of her sister. She wrote a letter to President George W. Bush asking him to support stem-cell research, and asking him to meet with her. He was out of town during her visit, although he did write her back. Slusser considered using her wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to meet with President Bush.

President Bush did not vote in favor of funding stem-cell research, but Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett did. Slusser has kept in touch with them.

In 2005, doctors in Wisconsin performed Slusser’s kidney and pancreas transplant. Her diabetes was cured as a result and she no longer is on dialysis, nor does she need insulin injections. But that didn’t stop her from her work to promote stem-cell research.

Slusser is planning her "100 letters campaign," where she will write to famous people whom she admires and will get involved in stem cell research. Some of the people on her list include Sting, Jon Stewart and comedian Martin Short.

Slusser is considering her future, potentially aiding others by becoming an international patent lawyer to help speed medications into production. To her parents, Mark and Sherrie Slusser, her eventual occupation is secondary.

"We’re just happy to have her healthy," her mother said.

And Laura Slusser is ready to begin her "100 letters campaign."

"One hundred letters is a lot of letters," she admitted. "I’ll try I really will."


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