A shot in the arm

Published 9:39 am Thursday, July 26, 2012

Katie Conner poses with her first place trophy after winning the community problem solving division of the Future Problem Solvers International Conference in Bloomington, Ind. DALE

BLOOMINGTON, IND.—It’s OK to call 2012 Franklin High School graduate Katie Conner an international champion.

The 18-year-old, who will attend Virginia Tech in the fall, placed first in community problem-solving at the Future Problem Solvers International Conference at the University of Indiana last month for raising awareness about the importance of vaccines.

Conner beat out five competitors with Project Vaccine, or Virginians Curing Children through Immunizations and New Efforts.

“Ultimately my goal was to teach students and the community why vaccines are important and what each vaccine was used for,” Conner said. “I wanted to get the knowledge out there in order to help students make informed health decisions in the future.”

The project included distributing a survey to students at FHS and J.P. King Middle School.

“Out of the students surveyed, only seven percent knew enough about vaccinations to make an informed decision,” Conner said. “Aside from the flu vaccine almost no one knew what the vaccines were for.”

She also raised money and partnered with local businesses to purchase Band-Aid-shaped magnets with the local health department phone number and the website for the Centers for Disease Control. Conner wrote a Your Turn column about vaccines for the opinion page in The Tidewater News.

Future Problem Solvers Sponsor Liz Rabil said Conner needed no coaxing to prepare and research the project.

“Katie was totally devoted to this project,” Rabil said. “I had to keep up with her.”

Rabil said the international judges were taken aback by her “dedication and accomplishments, especially since she was working alone.”

While at Virginia Tech, Conner plans to study theater art and communications with a focus on international communications and public advocacy. She wants to continue working on vaccine awareness.

FHS sophomore Maura Zurfluh was also a finalist and competed in individual writing on pharmaceuticals.