Tyler Ragin packed 10 pairs of shoes for an eventful few days.
There were shoes she wore to win a preliminary relay race this past Friday. Shoes to take gold in a long jump. Shoes for hanging out with Rutland High track teammates. Shoes for the schools prom Saturday. Shoes for professional-style interviews. Shoes to wear to meet the governor. And the shoes she wore Tuesday when she was named Georgias Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Those shoes help keep Ragin moving. Though shes just 5 foot 3 inches tall and 125 pounds, people should know better than to get in her way.
If you tell me I cant do something, Im going to try my best to prove you wrong, the 16-year-old with a ready smile declared Wednesday in an interview at her school.
For the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year competitions, Ragin had to beat challengers in the Central Georgia region, then fended off about 150 competitors for the state title. Shell next head to a nine-state regional competition for a shot at the nationals. If she wins, shell get to meet President Barack Obama.
That still wouldnt be the end of it.
Ragin is determined. She wants to be at the top of her class and has a 3.6 grade point average. She wants to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She wants to become a child psychologist.
Ragin helped her siblings -- Kendall, 15, and Kameryn, 11 -- as her parents went through a divorce, keeping them emotionally steady and ensuring their homework got done.
Her father and a Boys & Girls Club official say shes always trying to help others. She helps counsel younger children about healthy eating and getting exercise. They say she befriends everyone she meets, and has slung injured track competitors over her shoulder so she could take them to a medic.
She seems to thrive on challenges. The Boys & Girls Clubs competition required essays, said Angie Wilson, vice president of program services for Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Georgia.
She had to do two essays, and her essays were done on a cellphone because she didnt have a computer at home. You know, a lot of people dont know that. And so when things were tough, instead of her finding excuses why she couldnt do it, she found a way to do it. Part of her winning the state Youth of the Year competition will be she gets a computer, Wilson said.
Sometimes Ragins interests lead to odd problems. On Friday, she fell and scraped her elbow immediately after narrowly winning a preliminary relay race. The next night, she wore her prom dress despite the open wound because she wanted to hang out with her friends. Then she returned to Atlanta for the Boys & Girls competition.
Next weekend, shell be working on a 3-D art competition for her school.
Though Ragin is still a junior, she already has drawn 93 letters of interest from colleges including Harvard and Princeton, her father, Leland Ragin Jr., said.
Wilson said she keeps giving back to the Boys & Girls Clubs, which shes been a part of for about five years.
Shes an excellent role model of what you can do, what you can achieve if you really stay in school, focus on your academics and put your best foot forward, Wilson said.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.