Miami Palmetto High School senior Anna Marchus recently finished her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
She worked her magic at the Good Hope Therapeutic Riding Center in the Redlands, where she’s been a volunteer.
“They offer therapy for individuals with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, foster children, and people with life threatening diseases,” she says. “I’ve been horseback riding since first grade.”
She’s one of many volunteers.
“We have many experienced people there. Normally it’s not just one person,” she says. “Depending on each rider, different levels of assistance may be required.”
When the children first go to the farm, they often spend the first few visits looking at the horses, and touching them, and offering them treats.
“All the horses are extremely calm and wonderful,” she says.
Marchus says that last year she wanted to do more for the center than just volunteering.
“That’s when I started talking to the founder of Good Hope,” she says.
For the Gold Award, she painted the barn tan and green and also painted the wheel chair ramps around the property.
“We had to pressure clean, and then we painted the barn,” she says. “We also decided that I would establish a gardening program. I built two gardening plots. Then I instructed the volunteers and kids how to sustain a garden.”
Gardening can be another form of therapy for the disabled kids and adults, and the gardens allow them to participating in two forms of therapy on each visit. The gardens have both flowers and vegetables.
Marchus owns her own horse that she keeps in horse country. When she purchased him, he was not used to being ridden, so she’s spent a lot of time training him. He’s now ready for equestrian competitions. Those competitions were to start in November.
Although she had a busy summer with her Gold Award project, she also took time to attend a summer program at Florida State University. There she studied the role of actin in cell nuclei, Zika infection virology, and stem cell differentiation.
“We made observations regarding the presence and function of actin in cell nuclei,” she says. “For the Zika virus, we infected glioblastoma (brain tumor) cells with the Zika Virus, and tracked changes in the organization of the cell DNA at multiple time points. We determined that the largest changes in the infected cell occurred 24 hours after infection, which is crucial to understanding and curing the virus in the future.”
They also compared stem cells at different points of differentiation to find changes in cell physiology and active areas of the genetic code.
“We found that as cells matured and became more specialized, the genetic code is expressed differently in each region of DNA and the cells become more limited in function and architecture,” she says.
In 2016, she went on a medical outreach mission trip to Guatemala. There, she saw the consequences of the Zika virus first hand.
At Palmetto, Marchus has played lacrosse on the varsity team since Freshman year. She’s one of the members of the successful Odyssey of the Mind team that won second place at the World Finals. As a member of Science National Honor Society, she’s competed in Envirothon, the Lexus Eco Challenge and the Astronaut Challenge.
She’s a member of Student Council. Last year she was the Community Outreach chair. This year she’s working on environmental outreach.
In college, she interested in biology – she’s not sure if she wants to go into pre-med or biomedical engineering.
The colleges topping her list include Duke, Cornell, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of Florida.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld