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Caitlin Baker's leadership goes beyond pool

St. Mary junior, who is a member of the Muscogee Creek Tribe, is a major influence in the American Indian community
BY ROBERT PRZYBYLO, Staff Writer, Modified: January 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm •  Published: January 20, 2011

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.”

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