THS student launches arsenal on Alzheimer's

Senior project may lead to career
Feb. 16, 2013 @ 06:24 AM


Few individuals possess the tenacity to make a difference.
MaKayla Leak, a senior at Thomasville High School, has exemplified this quality throughout her life — but never more so than her last year in Thomasville. In the wake of personal suffering, Leak has worked to bring healing to others. Through the process of coping and completing a required senior project on the topic of dementia, she has raised more than $962 for the Alzheimer's Association.
"I wanted to focus on that topic, because I knew it would make it easier than focusing a five-page paper on something that you don't care about," Leak said.
Cognitive impairment became a focus for Leak in August, when Peggy Henry — her adoptive grandmother — was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. The discovery drove her to learn about the disease and what the patients must endure, while raising awareness in hopes to one day help provide for a cure.
Leak put together a walkathon at the school and sent out a letter to local businesses, asking for donations and raffle items. Through her efforts, she gathered nearly $1,000. On hand to witness the whole thing was the woman who helped raise Leak since she was six weeks old.
"I didn't know I was going to raise $962, but it was just great," Leak said. "That day, her being there and knowing it was all for her was probably the best thing."
The 18-year old also shadowed residents at Pine Ridge nursing home on the Alzheimer's unit to complete the community service portion of her project. She became attached to several of the residents, and now returns to visit with them even though the project has reached its conclusion.
"It was just sad. I spent 20 hours over there and I might have seen one family member," Leak said. "Nobody came. I think some of them got to a point where their family couldn't handle the fact they couldn't remember who they were."
Her experience led her to consider a career in the medical field. She is contemplating a major in physical therapy at the University of North Carolina, where she is set to begin classes this fall.
She admits to being less than solid in her choice of study but one thing remains certain — her drive to eradicate Alzheimer's Disease.
"One day, I'm going to find a way to fix it for other people so they won't have to go through this."

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or