Mariah Hanley may not participate in track and field or other sports at Central Valley High School, but the senior continues to scale hurdles with the dedication and class of an accomplished state champion.
Those who know Hanley will tell you that the cystic fibrosis she has dealt with all her life does little to define her. The disease characterized by a nagging impact on the lungs and digestive system is something Hanley will bring up along polite, explanatory lines – but she would much rather chat about the classes she is taking at Eastern Washington University as a student in the Running Start program or skiing at Mount Spokane than dwell on a condition that she has learned to manage like just another homework assignment.
While coping with the effects of cystic fibrosis – a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system – Central Valley senior Mariah Hanley excels as an A-student, community volunteer and advocate for those suffering from the same condition. Earlier this month, Hanley led a team at Spokane’s annual cystic fibrosis fundraiser, generating around $5,000 for the cause..
“She’ll talk about cystic fibrosis in a passing way, like it’s light news,” said Hanley’s friend Kyra Sims, a senior at University High School who is also enrolled in Running Start at EWU. “She doesn’t just want to be known as a person with CF. She doesn’t want to be treated differently.
Sims said her friend deals with the challenge like anything else in her life – with dedication, focus and a lot of heart.
“Mariah is very determined,” she said. “She is extremely intelligent and caring. She’s taught me how to care more.”
Last weekend, Hanley participated in “Great Strides for Cystic Fibrosis,” the annual fundraising event for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation along the Centennial Trail near Gonzaga University. As captain of “Team Mariah,” Hanley helped raise close to $5,000 for CF research. It was the 15th year she has attended the walk.
Hanley’s community service agenda also includes volunteering at the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery for the past year. The nonprofit agency provides support and resources for local at-risk children, something Hanley said she admires.
“I’m interested in helping kids have better lives,” she said.
Hanley is headed to Seattle University in the fall to major in political science. She said her future career plans could include working as a lawyer and advocate for kids.
School has always been an important part of Hanley’s life – even when she has been too ill to attend. Dealing with CF often means navigating her way through sicknesses like colds and flu. One year at Central Valley, she missed 17 days before Christmas break. Mariah’s mom, Addy Hanley, said her daughter has never used CF and its ripple effect as an excuse to slack off.
“If she’s stayed home, Mariah’s always keeping up with her schoolwork,” she said. “She’s really been an inspiration to all of us.”
For her part, Mariah said she doesn’t like to miss school.
“Mostly it’s because I hate going back and not knowing the answers to questions,” she said. “It’s important for me to get right back as soon as I can.”
As for other students who dwell on scapegoats or simply place apathy before accountability, Hanley offers a reminder that school “is not just about skating by.”
“It’s kind of frustrating to see that,” she said. “They have the opportunity just like I do. It’s about effort.”
Hanley’s efforts have resulted in a 3.94 combined grade point average between Central Valley and Eastern as well as an academic letter awarded for the blend of stellar grades and community service. She has been a member of the National Honor Society throughout high school and lettered on the debate team all four years, qualifying for the state competition twice.
“I like research and I like to talk,” Hanley said.
In her spare time, Hanley helps coach a debate squad at Summit School. She has assisted with the middle school program over the past four years and recently coached a team to a district championship.
Hanley makes sure to included CF maintenance in her schedule, including taking enzyme pills with her meals and carrying an inhaler. Other than the annoying side effects of pizza, her diet is fairly straightforward with favorites including Indian food, popcorn and pasta.
This fall, Hanley will begin classes at Seattle University where she will study law. Lynn Hutchins, a counselor at Central Valley, said the Hanley will leave a legacy at her old high school as a “stellar, self-motivated student who always did her best.”
“Mariah doesn’t look for excuses,” Hutchins said. “She’s truly a positive example for other kids.”