Since birth determination has been a part of Sarah Flintgruber’s life.

Since birth determination has been a part of Sarah Flintgruber’s life.

Flintgruber fought the odds to survive when born premature. The 18-year-old MTHS senior also fought the odds and won when, in  December, she gained admission to Yale University.

Flintgruber knows exactly what she wants to do with the opportunity to study engineering.

“I want to change the world for the better ... There are so many problems in the world. The solution is innovation,” she said.

Flintgruber said as the days draw closer to leaving for Yale she is both excited and a little nervous.

“I’m confident I can handle it. It will be hard,” she said.

She intends to study engineering, but is not sure yet which discipline within engineering she wants to pursue.  

Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., is a long way from Woodford County. But, Flintgruber said no matter how far from home she goes the life lessons she learned here will follow her.

“I am so glad I’ve grown up here. It’s been good to live here and be able to go canoeing or go in the woods or be able to walk at 11 p.m.,” she said.

“I like the people here. I know them. They know me. It’s nice to have that.”
Flintgruber said she would also not trade her experiences at MTHS.

“I had the opportunity to go to the Illinois Math and Science Academy. I’m glad I didn’t go,” she said. “I have great coaches and teachers here. I’ve had so many opportunities at Metamora High.”

She said one of the greatest lessons learned at home and school is the importance of teamwork.

“Teamwork is working with other people. We need to work with other people. You need to help others,” she said. “To get the most out of anything you have to help others.”

Flintgruber said she realizes that she has been the recipient of a great deal of help.

“I’d like to thank everyone who helped me along the way,” she said. “You don’t achieve success in a vacuum.”

Fan base
Howard “Pete” Kurtz, Flintgruber’s Tae Kwon Do instructor, has known the girl since she was 7 and was not surprised when he learned she had gained admission to the Ivy League school.

“She was always very focused, driven and responsible. She was always willing to help others,” Kurtz said.
“She was always committed to reaching a goal. She is the kind of person who always wanted to do what was right. She’s always been a mature person.”

Kurtz said the Tae Kwon Do training Flintgruber has gone through was always more about character-building than self-defense.

Kurtz said Flintgruber caught onto the goal of building self-confidence early on.

“We teach students to work on overcoming themselves. She doesn’t want to be better than anyone else. She wants to be better than she is now. She wants to better herself,” Kurtz said.

“It’s exciting for me to hear she’s going to an Ivy League school. It doesn’t surprise me. Her parents have always been all about creativity and finding new experiences for their children.”

Melissa Danner, Flintgruber’s track coach at MTHS, said Flintgruber is a leader.

“She is exemplary when it comes to teamwork. Everyone is important to Sarah. The team is everything to her. She always puts the team first,” Danner said.

Danner was also not surprised to see Flintgruber gain acceptance at Yale.

“Academics always comes first. You know she is smart, but she doesn’t hold it over people. She is very down-to-earth.”

Proud mother
Jeanette Gruber is the proud mother.

She has watched her daughter fight for more in life since the day she was born.

Flintgruber was born premature with lung issues.

“She had RSV, a lung problem, when she was born. It kills about half the children who get it. We nearly lost her at about seven-days-old,” Gruber said.

“I was very, very sick with toxemia which is why she was born early. Still, she was a very beautiful newborn. She was so round.”

Flintgruber was in the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center neonatal center with tubes in her belly and arms.

“She was very determined even in the beginning. She was intubated because she had pneumonia,” Gruber said.

“There were three nurses and a doctor intubating her. They turned away from her for a moment and she yanked the tube out.”

Gruber said the awe her daughter inspired at birth has never waned.

“I am inspired by my own daughter on a daily basis. I choose to see through her what the rest of us can be,” Gruber said.

“She has a fabulous habit of stretching herself. It takes work and she is consistent. I often say, ‘Let me be enough mother for this girl today.’”