Vista High School senior Amy Wehner is a recipient of the Don Diego scholarship. Courtesy photo
Vista High School senior Amy Wehner is a recipient of the Don Diego scholarship. Courtesy photo
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Vista High student awarded Don Diego scholarship

VISTA — There is an optimistic glow that comes from Vista High School senior Amy Wehner as she makes her around in her wheelchair. A crack in the sidewalk could spell a fall, but she doesn’t let physical obstacles or other challenges stop her.

“She’s one of the most optimistic people you’ll meet in your life,” her mother Chris Wehner said.

Amy’s positive attitude and hard work recently earned her the $5,000 Don Diego scholarship in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) category. The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation grants 14 scholarships a year through an application and interview process.

Amy cemented her love for animals when she enrolled in Vista High School FFA classes. Through the program she has raised rabbits, and raised and breed lambs.

“I’ve always really loved animals,” Amy said. “They have been a big passion of mine. In the FFA program I become connected with them.”

Her wheelchair has presented some obstacles in her farming efforts, starting with entering the school barnyard that originally had a rough rocky surface. Getting through the gravel use to take her 15 minutes. A paved ramp has now been put in place.

Amy said she is use to figuring out ways to get around things. Another barnyard obstacle she overcame was working with larger animals from the height of her wheelchair. Her father worked with her to craft an animal harness that attaches to her wheelchair to help her handle larger livestock.

“I always had a way of figuring out what I need to do,” Amy said.

Her farming efforts earned her an FFA Greenhand and Chapter degree, and Wool and Ewe award at the San Diego Fair. They also landed her the $5,000 scholarship.

Amy recalls when she opened the award letter two weeks ago, still not knowing if she was granted the scholarship or not. The first person she shared the good news with was her mom.

“She was very proud of me,” Amy said.

Amy has had spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a form of muscular dystrophy, since birth. Her older sister Linsey Wehner, who now studies medicine at UCSD, also has SMA and is wheelchair bound.

Amy said her medical condition has caused her to miss a lot of class time, but she has worked with her teachers to allow her or get her work in when she can.

“It creates a lot of late work and catching up,” Amy said. “I just try to keep a positive attitude and get everything I need to get done, done.”

“I do the best I can, and I hope that’s enough.”

She said this year has been pretty good health wise. On the days she’s been out of class she has been able to recover at home. Other years she has needed to be hospitalized.

Despite her medical condition Amy lives life to the fullest. She has a 4.0 grade point average, takes honor classes, and has been on the principal’s honor roll for four years.

She is also part of the high school cheerleader squad.

Her charity work includes fundraising for Cure SMA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Amy plans to attend CSU San Marcos, which she has been accepted to for fall. Then she would like to transfer to UC Davis to study veterinary medicine.

Amy said she has not selected a veterinary specialty yet. For now the sky is limit for her future plans.

She shared her advise to others: “There’s opportunities out there for everyone. You have to be passionate about finding them. You never know what is going to come out of something simple.”