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St. Michael’s student’s positive outlook forged from serious illness

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012

As a high-achieving senior at St. Michael’s Academy, Rosie Urann’s days are packed. The valedictorian is involved in every aspect of school life while also working part time at her parents’ business.

“School and sports and drama are what my life’s all about right now,” she said.

While she likes life busy, Urann doesn’t take her activities for granted. As a fifth-grader, she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacked her joints and made every movement painful. Although she said she eventually outgrew the disease, for a while it sidelined her.

“It had a huge impact because of how into sports I am,” she said. “Sometimes it hurt so bad I couldn’t go outside and play. That was pretty hard.”

When her ankles were so swollen she could barely walk up the stairs, Urann said it put things in perspective. “I was practically crippled at 12 to 13 years old. … It was a huge challenge but made me stronger. I learned to be strong because I had to be strong,” she said. “I got through it and tried to be positive about it. I looked at kids with cancer or worse diseases and told myself it could be worse.”

That experience, she said, made her grateful.

Her positive attitude became a hallmark trait observed by teachers and coaches. “She is always prepared regardless of what is going on in her life, and she is always positive,” said Sister Marie Vianney. “She is a very strong woman, very determined, with very clear goals, but again, very positive.”

As a strong student known for her drive, Urann has received many academic awards, from math and speech to drama and history. “I do like my academics,” she said with a laugh, adding that she can also be seen as bossy.

“I’m sort of a perfectionist,” she said. “In group projects I take charge and see it through and see something happen. I try to organize things and get things done and have fun.”

Other students respond to Urann’s leadership, Vianney said. “She listens. She works well in groups because she hears what other people have to say. She is good about getting other people involved. She is definitely a leader.”

Vianney said that the school musical, its first, may not have happened without Urann’s drive because their drama teacher was transferred. “Rosie literally stepped into the gap,” Vianney said. “Until the new teacher could take the reins, Rosie was the unifying stabilizing person.”

Urann’s softball coach, Mike Raynor, said her leadership has been pivotal for the team as well. “She’s not one of the most talented or gifted athletically, but she has the heart of a lion,” he said. “She’s very sensitive and very caring. She’ll go out of her way to help somebody solve a problem. She’s been a great leader. … If I need stuff handled with the girls on the team, I tell her and she takes care of it.”

For Urann, her outlook and approach to life stem from her faith. “My Catholic faith is pretty much who I am. It’s why I’ve made the big decisions that I have,” she said. “It’s a part of my everyday life, all day.”

“I think that what makes me most appreciate her, is that every day matters to Rosie,” Vianney said. “Every moment of every day matters.”

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