By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Mary Kate Reynolds has always had an interest in the medical field, specifically medical research that continually provides new discoveries. Once in high school, the Ponte Vedra High senior entered the Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research, which only heightened her level of interest. “The first year in Biotech we got to learn about DNA and then proteins and then genetics. Every year it gets more and more interesting. I have realized that this is where I want to be,” said Reynolds, 17. “I am really interested in genetics and gene therapy. It is just such a growing field.” Reynolds participated in the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) competition with Ponte Vedra High School, ultimately making it to Internationals with 7,000 other students in Nashville, Tennessee. She placed in the Top 10 in the Biomedical Laboratory Science Category, doing an agar plate procedure and putting on personal protection equipment. Reynolds was one of only two students from Florida competing in her category in June. Reynolds has a 4.58 GPA and a strong interest in attending the University of Florida and is Bio Tech certified. When she is not at school and studying, Reynolds can be found riding and showing her horse, Mia, something that relieves stress even on a busy school day. Reynolds has two younger brothers, Garrett, 15, and Carter, 11, plus four dogs (Roxy, Jasper, Pixie and Maple) who started out as fosters. “We are not very good fosters, I guess,” said Reynolds jokingly. “We love our animals.”
Q: What did you learn about yourself by competing at HOSA?
A: I learned that I worry too much about my competition and my peers when I ultimately do the best when I remind myself what I am able to accomplish when I work hard. I was very excited at the competition, and I was surprised when I did the category by how much I already knew from the Biotech Academy.
Q: You mentioned your excitement over potentially being a part of “the science of the future.” How does it feel to be getting so close to fulfilling this goal?
A: The Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research has presented me with so many opportunities to learn about the industry and ways I can get involved in the future. Earlier this year, one of my classmates and I procured a patent for our Project Innovation idea that we came up with in Biotech. We had the idea to use mosquitoes for virology, recombinant DNA, and vaccine technology. It was such a great learning experience and opportunity for me to put me name on something that has the potential to be used in Biotechnology in the future.
Q: What got you interested in riding and showing horses?
A: I knew my mom had done it growing up, so she used to always tell me about it. I had never really found a sport that I connected with before, so I wanted to try it when I was nine. There is just something about getting on this animal and being able to communicate with it and trust it. It is not just a pet; it is your partner. I felt that when I first started riding, but even more when we got Mia. I connected with her, and she is my heart horse.
Q: You volunteer with an equine organization, Horse Sense and Sensitivity, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic riding lessons to special needs individuals. What do you like about this experience?
A: I love seeing all these kids riding the horses. I have become invested in it because I get to connect with both the kids and the horses. My job is a side walker, especially during Special Olympics. I remind the kids of what they are supposed to be doing, and I try my best to make it a good experience for everyone.
Q: How has your family helped you find your way?
A: My grandparents and my parents have raised us to be very responsible and to be the best we can be. They are always supportive of whatever makes me happy and whatever I am good at. My grandparents have always helped me out so much and given me solid advice all throughout my childhood. My parents and my grandparents are the smartest people I know, and I trust them so much.
Photo courtesy Shelby Phillips Photography
Mary Kate Reynolds and Mia.