SA graduate with rare disease set to receive Youth National Award in Los Angeles

The non-profit, National Organization for Rare Disorders, giving the award to Villarreal said she is a shining example of rare disease youth advocacy and leadership.

SAN ANTONIO — Abigail Villarreal is described as little, but mighty with a big voice. The teenager all her life has battled with something most of us take for granted.

The Jefferson High School senior graduated on Thursday night with more than 300 of her fellow peers. This is a big week for Villarreal. Thursday, she graduated. Saturday, she will be receiving a youth national award in Los Angeles. On Sunday, she will turn 18 years old.

“I am excited,” she said. “I am also nervous. I am scared. I just feel very grateful. Everything is falling into piece. It’s just amazing.”

The non-profit, National Organization for Rare Disorders, giving the award to Villarreal said she is a shining example of rare disease youth advocacy and leadership.  She was nominated to receive this award.

“She said she loved all the work I was doing,” Villarreal said. “And wants other youth to be involved, and see someone who is the same age as them is little but mighty and has a big voice to be able to do so much.”

Villarreal has a rare genetic disorder that she has been living with her whole life. Soon after she was born, doctors gave her mom the diagnosis.

“She has phenylketonuria which is PKU,” Villarreal said doctors told her mom.

She essentially has to watch what she eats and be extremely careful.    

“Only able to take 45 grams of protein a day because with phenylketonuria, I can’t process protein correctly having amino acid build up,” she said. “So for you, you could probably have a 100 grams of protein a day, and my cutoff is 45.”

The teenager has to take medicine. However, through her years in school, she was bullied. Villarreal being courageous has turned that pain into a purpose.

“There are people with disabilities,” she said. “I may not look like I am disabled. But, I am disabled in some ways. My biggest goal is how to get people to stop being so naïve and just accept that all of us are different.”

Villarreal plans to attend a private school in Pennsylvania, called Elizabethtown College where she plans to major in psychology and minor in public health.

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