In her teens, Sarah Farmer of Poway fought a double punch — bipolar disorder and a medical condition that caused an abnormally large increase in heart rate when she went from lying down to standing up.

“Day after day I suffered through constant fear, worry, fainting spells, depression and manic episodes,” Farmer said. “After finally graduating high school — despite my counselor’s original doubts — I decided to change that. I wanted to overcome the odds set against me.”

Sarah Farmer of San Diego Mesa College. Photo courtesy Mesa College

Mission accomplished.

Now a 21-year-old student at San Diego Mesa College, Farmer has been honored twice in the past week.

On Wednesday, she was named to the 2014 All-USA Community College Academic Team and featured in USA Today online.

Along with 19 other college students from across the country, she was selected to the team from more than 1,700 students nominated by more than 800 community colleges. Farmer will receive a $2,500 scholarship and a special medallion to wear on her graduation regalia this June.

Earlier this week, Farmer and fellow student William Keck were honored as All-California Academic team members of Phi Theta Kappa. Farmer was also named the top scorer in the state, earning an additional award as the 2014 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar for California, which comes with a $2,000 scholarship and a plaque from the Coca-Cola Foundation and Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

“Sarah is a perfect example of what teaching and learning at Mesa College is all about,” said Pamela Luster, Mesa College president. “At Mesa, Sarah found the encouragement and programs to thrive – both in and outside the classroom. She has made the transition from student to leader. She is a role model for her peers — on campus and in the community — and has an outstanding future ahead of her.”

Although she’ll graduate with high honors, Farmer never had ambitious goals for an academic future.
Throughout middle and high school, Farmer suffered from constant health problems, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and bipolar disorder.

Her grades suffered due to numerous hospital visits. She surprised even her high school counselor by graduating.

In 2011, she enrolled at Mesa College.

“From the day I set foot at Mesa, the college experience – and especially the people, programs, and wealth of ways for students to get involved – helped me to turn by life around,” says Farmer, now able to cope with her conditions without the need of medical attention.

Farmer boasts a 3.95 grade-point average as a psychology major, and her academic success is matched by her involvement in campus affairs and community service. She is vice president of the Associated Student Government, president of the Honors Club and a member of the pre-med AMSA chapter, the Inter-Club Council, the Psi Beta Honor Society.

She is also vice president of fellowship in the college’s PTK chapter, which presents the All-USA Community College Academic Team awards.

Off campus, Farmer volunteers for the Escondido Humane Society and as a youth leader in her church, with a total of more than 5,000 hours of community service.

After graduation in June, Farmer hopes to transfer to a four-year university and eventually earn her Ph.D. in psychology.

She hopes that she can one day “guide future generations to achieve greatness and overcome the odds set against them.”

“I continue to do my best as a student while also being continuously involved on and off campus, and while encouraging my peers to be the best they can be,” Farmer says. “There is no greater service or goal than helping lift up others.”

— A Mesa College press release contributed to this report.

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