In these turbulent political times, it's the perfect opportunity for students to practice their debate skills. The topic in class on Wednesday at Wayzata High School was about education.
Junior Miranda Mead was quick on her feet to argue her point. It's all in a day's work for this 17-year-old from Plymouth, who's involved in multiple sports and is a model student.
"I really enjoy English class. I love reading books and I love writing," Mead said. "So I kind of want to be known as an athlete and a talented student because I find them both very important."
Yet a little more than a year ago, she wasn't sure whether she'd be able to finish high school.
"On Dec. 1, 2015, after months of extreme back pain, I was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma," Mead said. "Ewing sarcoma is an extremely rare bone cancer. It affects three million children. And I didn't know at the time, but Ewing sarcoma actually has a 30 percent chance of survival."
For the next nine months, Mead underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Wayzata English teacher Mark Johnston helped her keep up with her studies while she was homebound.
"Even on the days when she was just ravaged, her energy was just zapped, she never gave in. She never gave up," Johnston said. "She's just one of the strongest people I've ever known at any age."
Strong, because she didn't hide from the struggle. She took it head-on.
Mead volunteered for the The Truth 365
social media campaign where she appeared in public service announcements and photo shoots to educate people about childhood cancer.
"When I found out that childhood cancer receives four percent of the entire national cancer budget, I was shocked," Mead said. "Because there's so many different childhood cancers, and why are we only worth four percent?"
Mead's advocacy work paid off. This month, she was selected to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award
for being one of Minnesota's top volunteers.
"I'm thrilled, but I'm hardly surprised," Johnston said. "The thing about Miranda is, it didn't take this illness to bring this out in her. She's always been such a generous spirit."
She's a generous spirit who is now cancer-free. In the meantime, she just has to worry about finishing high school.
"I think whatever walk of life she takes in her personal life and her career, she will change the world," Johnston said.
The award Mead received comes with a $1,000 prize and a trip to Washington, D.C. One day, she hopes to become a radiation therapist so she can help other children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Feb. 16. 2017