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Empowered Lansing student becomes an agent of change for scoliosis testing in her school district

LANSING, Kan. -- She's lettered in swim, cross-country and power lifting, but that's not why she's this week's Reaching for Excellence young achiever.

Lansing High School junior Leah Wiegers is being recognized for her determination to get mandatory scoliosis testing in schools.

The 17-year-old calls herself: "Someone who just stands up for what's right."

She was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 12, and has become an advocate. Part of her treatment involves wearing a hard brace.

“Just open it up like this and then you just put it on. It was like having a shell on me for 20 hours a day for two years," she described.

Look at her five years later, and although she is not healed, per say, she's doing much better! Better, she believes, because doctors caught it early.

“It really empowered me to speak up for what I believe in,” she said.

And that -- she did. Currently, the state of Kansas does not require schools to screen for scoliosis. Lansing Unified School District 469 does not... well, did not, until Leah spoke up.

“Leah is outstanding. She is doing the work of what really we see in college-prepared persons or really persons of myself who are doing post maters work, Ph.D work or even doctoral work," Jill Ariagno said.

Ariagno is Leah's nurse and has been with her from the very beginning.

“Just quite an exceptional kid,” she said of Leah.

Recently, Leah put together a presentation and met with school officials,  local medical experts, even a state senator and representative. She took her experience and findings to her school board.

“It was unanimous. They didn't really have to vote on it because there was already a policy that allowed them to screen at our school, but nobody was doing it for the past few years," Leah said.

Phase one of training nurses is already done. Beginning later this year, or early next -- schools within her district will now screen all kids for scoliosis.

Leah wants to get an ROTC scholarship and attend a military academy. She dreams of one day following in her mother's footsteps, and becoming an officer in a military branch.