March-April 2012 | Education

Top Teens 2012

Bethesda Magazine's 2012 Extraordinary Teen Awards.

Photo by Michael VenturaKatherine Kiernan

Senior, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart

Katherine Kiernan spent eighth grade undergoing six months of grueling treatments for leukemia. Now that the disease is in remission, the 18-year-old from Chevy Chase uses that difficult experience to help others at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where she was treated.

She shares her story at events to raise awareness of childhood cancers and help with fundraising. On one occasion, she spoke before more than 200 people, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Kate had forgotten her text, but was able to present her thoughts like a pro. The senator later told her that she was a natural speaker and that more people like her were needed in public life, says Amy Ciccone, Stone Ridge’s director of college counseling.

Kate has also been a Children’s volunteer, participating in activities with young patients who are undergoing treatments similar to hers.

Other accomplishments: Kate turned around the school’s foundering literary magazine, serving as editor-in-chief for two years. She is a leader in the Social Action Program at Stone Ridge, teaching freshmen about elder care, and making frequent visits to nearby adult day care and nursing home facilities. For two years, Kate has been meeting regularly with a teenage girl through Best Buddies International, an organization that seeks to foster friendships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kate also has earned straight A’s despite the rigors of the cancer treatment and the subsequent development of diabetes.

What others say: “She has a calm wisdom—she sees what’s important in life and what isn’t,” Ciccone says.  

What her future holds: In the fall, Kate plans to study public health and history at Brown University in Providence, R.I., and hopes to continue her health advocacy work.