Payton and Mackenzie c Magnolia Mae Photography
Payton and Mackenzie c: Magnolia Mae Photography

Two Oregon Tech students have been spreading awareness about major health concerns before taking the statewide stage this week at the Miss Oregon Scholarship Program. Payton Idrogo and Mackenzie Peterson competed for and won titles at the Women’s Scholarship Foundation of Klamath County’s 45th annual scholarship awards program in April and have used the time since to campaign for causes near to their hearts.

Their dedication to their causes is apparent in the program that they choose to study at Oregon Tech—both are a freshman in Biology-Health Sciences. The two are not just sharing platitudes about their campaigns—they have personal experience with the dangers of a lack of awareness and are actively involved in making a difference.

Payton Idrogo

Crowned Miss City of Sunshine 2021, Payton raises awareness about the growing need for organ donors in the Pacific Northwest. 3,000 people in the Pacific Northwest are waiting for an organ donation to save their life; Oregon patients wait, on average, 5-7 years. Nationally, nearly 100,000 people are waiting specifically for a kidney transplant.

Payton’s experience is gained from having hydronephrosis when she was an infant, which caused her to lose a kidney before she was 3 years old. Hydronephrosis is a condition that typically occurs when a kidney swells due to urine failing to properly drain from the kidney to the bladder.

“I myself only have one kidney and I’ve only had the one since I was about 3 years old,” shared Payton. “We don’t know the actual age I was when it stopped working, but I’ve lived the majority of my life with only one. I’m passionate about working with Donate Life NW not only to share with others the importance of being a registered donor, but so in the process, I can learn more as well.”

Donate Life Northwest is committed to educating people in Oregon and SW Washington about the importance and impact of organ, eye and tissue donation and to increase the number of people signed up on the Oregon and Washington donor registries.

Payton’s future career plans include going to medical school after graduating from Oregon Tech. “I want to become an OB/GYN and come back to work in the Klamath Basin,” she shared. “My study of Biology-Health Sciences helps me learn what certain diseases affect kidneys, things that could happen now and in the future. It is interesting to learn what happens to the kidneys with certain diseases, and also what certain medicine can be harmful to the kidneys.

“I am very passionate about organ donation as it is the last thing you can do in this life—give a person a second chance in life. It truly is an important topic that people should be aware of and if the only thing I can do is share information about organ donations I am going to do so.”

Mackenzie Peterson

Having previously held the title of Miss Oregon Teen USA and competed at the national pageant in 2019, Mackenzie is the reigning Miss Klamath County 2021. A student-athlete on the cross-country and track teams, after receiving her bachelor’s degree she hopes to be part of the first class of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Oregon Tech.

Over the course of her 10-year pageantry career, Mackenzie developed a social impact initiative and founded an organization called Veins of Love®. This organization strives to bridge the gap for vascular disease education in our youth, raises funds for vascular research and advocates for overall vascular health.

“Studying Biology-Health helps me to understand the functions of the body in a more technical and thorough way,” shared Mackenzie.

Mackenzie’s dedication to the cause developed from her mother’s diagnosis of Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD), a rare idiopathic disease that narrows your blood vessels, which ultimately cost her mother a kidney. This disease could affect any vessel and could be potentially life-threatening.

“FMD is extremely rare and only affects 3% of the population, whereas cardiovascular disease and vascular disease combined are the No. 1 cause of death globally,” said Mackenzie. “Since then, I have decided to bring awareness to all types of vascular disease because of how significant it is.”

Over the years, Mackenzie has hosted a “Blue Out” volleyball game for FMD, created a “Wreath of Hope” for auction, was once the youngest health fair booth organizer at the Sky Lakes health fair, wrote an article for the Sky Lakes Live Smart magazine titled “Hypertension in Teens,” and now has created an online website, where every purchase benefits a vascular organization for research. She recently partnered with Vascular Cures, a national nonprofit organization that supports innovative research and programs that advance patient-centered healthcare. Through her partnership she will be able to advocate for awareness in youth, starting off with her project of educational coloring pages and hoping to create a learning module for the classroom.

Klamath Falls and Oregon Tech will cheer on Payton and Mackenzie June 17 as they compete for the title of Miss Oregon 2021.