Hermantown High School graduate Lexi Golden's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease when she was just 6 years old.

Her mother was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia just a few years ago.

Having one parent diagnosed with a possibly debilitating disease would be hard for any high school student to overcome, but to have two parents diagnosed with these types of diseases is even more challenging. But Golden hasn't let it get her down. It has made her even more determined and has shaped the way she sees her future.

"Growing up, being surrounded by that, I became very interested in why these diseases are affecting them," Golden said.

Golden said her father is currently in a nursing home. Her mother, on the other hand, has been stable for a few years and her white blood cell count has been doing a lot better.

In the fall, Golden will be attending Stanford University with plans to study human biology with hopes to work in a lab someday.

"I've wanted to look at similar diseases to leukemia and Parkinson's Disease ever since I was younger and so it'll just be like really interesting to see if I can continue going into those fields to explore like what I want to do forever," she said.

Golden said she became interested in genetics after seventh-grade teacher Katie Brown-Mesedahl introduced her to it and without her teacher she doesn't know if she would have found this interest. Brown-Mesedahl disagrees.

"I think she would have found her way in science without me," Brown-Mesedahl said. "But she's very sweet, and I think she's too kind to me honestly."

Brown-Mesedahl said Golden is one of those rare kids who are in school to truly acquire knowledge.

"She was always interested in the material and that was kind of a unique trait to see in such a young kid," Brown-Mesedahl said. "She just has that perseverance and that grit and whatever she pursues she is going to do well."

Hermantown senior Lexi Golden has a full ride to Stanford after graduation to study genetics. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com
Hermantown senior Lexi Golden has a full ride to Stanford after graduation to study genetics. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com

Brown-Mesedahl said Golden still keeps here updated on what's going on in her life, which is a great benefit of having the high school and middle school in the same building.

"It's been a true pleasure to watch her grow," Brown-Mesedahl said.

Golden's mother even keeps Brown-Mesedahl updated on how Golden is doing. One of the things Golden's mother told Brown-Mesedahl about was a pre-collegiate program at Stanford that Golden attended.

"Lexi completely distinguished herself there to the point that the professor there really noticed and it was cool to hear about that and what the professor thought of her," Brown-Mesedahl said. "It's great to just see how, yes, in this small school, she's definitely had a lot of success but then to see her just do so well on such a bigger stage, that is really cool to see."

Golden attended the three-week long pre-collegiate summer program where she was able to do tissue engineering. Her class worked on stem cells and differentiating them into myocardial cells. She learned about the program from her mother's oncologist, who is a Stanford alumnus.

At the end of the program, Golden was given a recommendation letter from the professor of the program.

"Reading it over it really put perspective on who I am as a person, and I was just really excited that she saw the same things in me that a lot of teachers, who have known me for a long time, do," Golden said.

Golden attended the program in the summer of 2018. In August she started her application process to Stanford and submitted it in October. In December she found out she was accepted.

"I actually opened it up while I was making gingerbread houses with my family. I got a text from a friend from another school who had applied and they said the decisions were out," Golden said. "So I ran out to the car and grabbed my computer and ran back inside and I opened it up and just started crying."

Golden is graduating with 165 other seniors from Hermantown Sunday. When asked what she will miss most about the area, she jokingly said, not the snow.

"I'll miss my family and friends. I'll also miss the lake," she said. "I was always told that there's a big world out there and that I'm free to go and explore because this is the time to do it."

Golden has lived her whole life in Hermantown and she said she's excited to explore other parts of the country.

"It'll be really interesting to just pick up and start fresh," she said.

This is the final piece in a series of stories highlighting local graduates from the Twin Ports area.