At age 9, almost as a last resort, Baker began swimming. Although she wasn't a natural, Baker enjoyed the sport.
Baker grew into one of the better youth swimmers around the Norman area, and it appeared swimming was her calling, especially in the backstroke.
Swimming remains an important part of Baker's life. For without swimming, Baker wouldn't have found her true passion: being a youth leader for American Indians.
When Baker was 12 years old, she swam at the North American Indigenous Games in Denver and noticed something.
“I was the only swimmer from Oklahoma there, and that got me to start wondering about some things,” Baker said.
One of them was the lack of American Indians participating not only in swimming but all sports. It was an issue Baker, a member of the Muscogee Creek Tribe, had not been aware of until she started to do research.
Baker's American Indian mother was adopted, and her father is white. Baker wasn't raised in an American Indian environment and said she didn't even know what a reservation was.
The research has continued without interruption.
Baker wasn't afraid to try and make a difference despite being age 12. She began right away and found a partnership with the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.
It was there where she was introduced to Rita Wright-Burkhalter, the director of health services at the clinic.
“She's always had a passion in inspiring other children to be the best they can be,” Wright-Burkhalter said. “She's always been a great mentor and knows how to get through to kids.”
Baker and Wright-Burkhalter began brainstorming what they wanted to accomplish with a nonprofit organization, and they came up with CAITLINB for Competitive American Indians Turning Lifestyles Into New Beginnings.
And for the last five years, Baker has turned a small program into a national venture.
At first, it was just about swimming. Baker has held clinics in Nebraska, Arizona and high schools around Oklahoma. Through her work, she learned programs needed to be more than just swimming.
“That was only just one issue,” Baker said. “It's about creating healthy lifestyles, and there are so many other ways to do that. And there are so many people who need help and need to be told they can do great things.”
Baker has conducted programs for awareness on obesity and diabetes, and she's working on starting a suicide hotline. The programs have brought her to South Dakota, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.
Baker said she still remembers her first speaking engagement in Anadarko in front of 25-30 students. She's come a long way since then.
One of the biggest reasons Baker's been able to engage kids' interests is because she knows what it's like to be one of them.
“I've been in those assemblies before and remember people telling me what I want,” Baker said. “I wasn't going to be like that.
“You have to listen. You have to ask them what they feel they need would help. I know what I'm going to say at each presentation, but the way I do it changes. Every community is different.”
Her programs have given her a chance to meet some of the most influential figures in sports.
In May 2008, the CAITLINB program was inducted into the Billie Jean King wing of the National Sports Museum in Manhattan, N.Y., as an example of community service that encourages healthy choices through sports participation.
Last October, Baker was awarded the Annika Sorenstam Award from King's Women and Sports Foundation, a national leadership recognition.
She's come a long way from when organizers believed her mother was the one who would be doing the speaking. They didn't believe someone so young would be speaking, Baker said.
“She was a naturally shy child,” said Edith Baker, Caitlin's mother. “She commands so much respect now and knows so many people in the Native American community. When she talks about her passion, she just becomes a different person.”
But she's still a teenager. And though Edith Baker is proud of her daughter, she also wants Caitlin to do things other teenagers do.
Caitlin Baker isn't competitively swimming this year. St. Mary doesn't have an official swim team, but Baker hasn't ruled out next year. It wouldn't be the first time she's been a trailblazer.
“I can't believe things have turned out the way they have,” Baker said. “I still love swimming and love being able to relax and be in my own world in the pool. I'm hoping my work will inspire more people to help and reach out.”