Editor’s note: This is the 13th story in our 20th annual Standout Grads series about special graduates from the class of 2019. The series will appear on the front page every day through Wednesday.
Meleah Kandoll’s typical day is a little different from that of most high-school seniors right now.
Mondays and Tuesdays, the Toutle Lake High School senior cares for seniors at a local nursing home from 6 a.m. to noon. Later in the week, she concentrates on her Running Start nursing classes at Lower Columbia College: ethics of nursing, psychology, nutrition. (Anatomy and physiology is her favorite — “so interesting, so complex.”) The classes come with four or more hours of homework each night.
What kind of high-school student chooses this course? Her athletic career holds answers. Kandoll entered Toutle Lake the same year the school launched its cross country program, and the two were a perfect fit. It’s easy to connect the dots between her determination on the course and her dogged pursuit of medical knowledge.
She loves running, and when she barely missed state as a freshman, it energized her to pour in even more effort. She became part of a trio of workaholic distance runners at Toutle Lake who endured snow and rain in an off-season training regimen that set the example for the Ducks’ young program.
“They’re a coach’s dream, all three of them,” TL coach Bob Pliler said. “When I watch them in a meet, I don’t have to talk to them. They’re warming up like an hour before the race. I don’t have to yell, like other kids, ‘Get out of the bleachers, your race is next!’ ”
Kandoll brought home plenty of hardware for Toutle Lake, and she qualified for the 5,000 meters in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships last year, where she placed 20th in her age group and earned All-American honors.
“It was nice to see her end her season on a positive note,” Pliler said. “She trains harder than anybody around, so it was really nice to see her go out on top.”
Around the same time, Kandoll was a babysitter for a neighbor who was a nurse. Many nurses have large blocks of time to spend with their family each week because their work shifts are longer than 8 hours, which is what initially piqued Kandoll’s interest in the medical profession: “I really liked how she was able to have a career and be a mom, so I started volunteering at the hospital.”
Many of Kandoll’s volunteer duties were not exactly an eye-opening look into the medical world. She worked the information counter helping patients find the right part of the facility. She was a gofer for lab work and supplies. But she was also involved in discharging patients, and the experience of helping new mothers leave St. John, excited to take their baby home for the first time, and these experiences confirmed she was on the right track: “I have always wanted to work with pediatrics.”
The next step was to become a certified nurse’s assistant, something that involved daily trips to Vancouver for several weeks. The stressful CNA exam was followed by more high-stakes tests to get one of the limited nursing slots in LCC’s Running Start Program.
“I don’t even know how to describe the support (my family has provided),” Kandoll said. “They’ve been really great.”
Last year, Kandoll was able to transition to a full schedule of college classwork, combined with actual patient care and lots and lots of homework. Her medical studies rule out competitive running in college, but it’s easy to see how the determination she built on the track will stand her in good stead — she’s already made the president’s list at LCC.
“I’ve had a lot of coaches talk to me about running for them in college, and LCC doesn’t have any track program. That was a hard choice, to give that up. But I’ve had a lot of fun with (nursing).”