Sarah Russel, O'Fallon Township High School

By some measures, Sarah Russel is a typical teenager. She runs. She hangs out with friends. She plays the piano. But then, it’s not likely many of her peers in O’Fallon, the small southern Illinois town where she lives, spent part of their childhood in Germany. Or have aced every course they’ve taken in high school. Or would spend their summers with their family doctor, as Russel did last year, just to be able to work with patients and help them recover. For a student pulled in so many directions, Russel, 18, has a singular passion for science that she has nurtured in various after-school clubs and organizations. It’s also why she’s already decided to pursue medicine at the University of Notre Dame in the fall. Russel said her mother, Kathryn, who is on active duty in the Air Force, suggested medicine because of her daughter’s aptitude in science. Russel said she hadn’t given it much thought but, a couple of days later, found herself taking a personality test designed to match her with potential careers. “Family practitioner was at the top of the list and seven or eight of the top 10 were all medical careers,” Russel said. “After that, I looked into them a little more and realized what a good fit they were for me.” Born on Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, Russel moved with her family to Germany and South Carolina before settling down in O’Fallon, about 20 miles east of St. Louis. Russel’s father, Michael, is retired from the Air Force. O’Fallon Township High School Principal Rich Bickel called Russel, who ranks No. 1 in her class of 614 students, a student leader and a role model who is mature beyond her years. “She has set some tremendous goals for herself and is well on her way to accomplishing them,” Bickel said. “She’s just a wonderful person.” — Joel Hood
Tribune photo by E. Jason Wambsgans
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