CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Very few people in the world can say they have met the Pope, let alone have been presented an award by his Holiness.
John Jay High school senior Morgan Panzirer just so happens to a member of this exclusive club.
Born and raised in Westchester, Panzirer attended Katonah Elementary. At age 6, her life changed when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). It would be this diagnosis that would set the course for her to impact the lives of children who also live with T1D. Since her diagnosis, Panzirer said that it became a focus of hers “to understand the disease and help other children battling [it].”
Panzirer always gravitated toward the study of math and science. However, when she entered John Jay High School and joined the science track, her focus sharpened to the areas of medicine and biology. While at John Jay, teachers and staff immediately noticed her strong work ethic and intellect.
“Her ability to problem solve and persevere is unparalleled,” said Theodore Cann, John Jay High School math teacher.
When not focused on science and math, Panzirer can be found playing the flute, an instrument that she has played since fourth grade, in the John Jay High School wind ensemble. She is also a member of Campus Congress, a student group that is comprised of 16 representatives from every grade. This group takes into account requests and feedback that their peers provide and then works with the high school administration to bring about some of the changes that students want to see in their school community.
Outside of life at John Jay, Panzirer can be found pursuing her equestrian passion, a sport she has participated in since the age of 6. She rides six days a week and cares for her horse, Gideon, whom she has trained since he was young. On average, Panzirer participates and competes in at least one horse show per month.
Her equestrian trainer, Jenn Giacopelli, head trainer of Rhiannon Equestrian in North Salem, says that Panzirer “is an extremely talented and accomplished rider who trains and rides daily and puts forth a great deal of time and energy toward accomplishing her equestrian goals.”
This effort has yielded some impressive results; Panzirer has won top ribbons throughout the years at nationally ranked competitions. Giacopelli goes on to say that “Morgan serves as a role model for all those around her. She is always gracious, encouraging, and supportive of her fellow competitors and riders. She is an exceptional young lady whom I greatly admire, respect, and appreciate.”
Some of Panzirer’s volunteer work also revolves around the horse world. She supports the Rider’s Closet, an organization founded in 2006 by Georgina Bloomberg. The Rider’s Closet “ensures that riding clothes are accessible to therapeutic programs, pony clubs, intercollegiate riding programs, and individual riders.” The organization has helped “thousands of deserving riders around the United States.”
Beyond her academics and equestrian activities, Panzirer’s advocacy work is a significant focus of her life. In 2009, at age 8, she attended “Children’s Congress” which is sponsored by the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. The organization, the world’s largest nonprofit funder of T1D research, takes two delegates from each state and sends them to Washington to meet with their senators to reinforce the need for funding. In the summer of 2017, Panzirer was asked to be one of the opening speakers for the event due to her advocacy work on behalf of T1D awareness and research.
During her freshmen year, Panzirer traveled to the Vatican to speak at a conference organized by the Stem for Life Foundation (SFLF), which assembles the world’s top scientists, researchers, and philanthropists to highlight rare autoimmune diseases. At the conference, she described to attendees what her life was like managing T1D and why they should continue advancing their research work. The following weekend of the conference, Panzirer was presented with an award by Pope Francis for her advocacy efforts. For Panzirer, meeting the Pope was an incredible experience, especially given her family’s connection to the faith.
With graduation just two months away, Panzirer already has firm plans for her future. In the fall, she will head to Villanova, where she will be majoring in pre-med. Panzirer’s goal is to become a pediatric endocrinologist. While she still has many years of education and training ahead of her, she dreams of the day she can open a clinic for children dealing with endocrine disorders.
As Panzirer prepares to move on from John Jay, she will always remember the affect that the teachers and staff had on her and how they influenced her future.
“The staff is amazing and supportive,” she said. “They allow you to focus on multiple aspects of the learning experience; you don’t just have to be a science kid; you can experience everything.”
She also “hopes that she leaves beyond a positive place” for students through her work on the Campus Congress.
Panzirer is the daughter of David and Karen. David is a trustee at the Helmsley charitable trust, leading the T1D initiative. David was previously a commercial real estate broker in Manhattan until a few months after Morgan was diagnosed in 2007, when he became a trustee. Since that time, he has “devoted his life to helping people manage T1D to ease daily the burden of the disease.” Karen is a fitness trainer and nutritionist for private clients and has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and health promotion and a master’s degree in nutrition from New York Medical College.