I know there a lot of towns with great stories of kids achieving notoriety beyond their academics. In some neighboring towns I’ve read about kids starting charities for friends that have medical challenges which is incredibly selfless. And, I can’t imagine I was as altruistic when I was a teen. But, as a South Orange resident for almost 20 years, I have been continually amazed at the level of excellence our kids achieve.
One such special kid is a Columbia High School senior who is graduating very shortly. The first time I met Olivia Baker she was about two years old and her baby sitter brought her over to have a play date with my son who was about the same age. When she looked up at me from her stroller I was thunderstruck by her infectious smile. It was impossible not to smile back and squeeze her sweet looking cheeks.
Olivia’s smile continues to be infectious to everyone she comes in contact with today. Maybe it is a sign of her inner confidence that she can “just do it,” or a result of a nuturing, unconditionally loving family or maybe she was just born this way. But by all accounts she is a phenom.
Today she is lighting up stadiums across the country with her record breaking track achievements. She just anchored the 800 relay and helped the Columbia High School Girls track team set a new record at the Penn Relays last weekend. And this was no one off. She has been breaking records all over the state for several years, and is now considered the fastest high school girls runner in New Jersey. But that’s not all.
This fall she will be taking her track talents as well as her academic talents with her as she goes off to join the Stanford University freshman class of 2019. She will run track for this fine institution and is going to the Olympic trials. Her “just do it” sunny outolook applies to her academics as much as it does to her athelitcs. Did I mention the fact that she is also pursuing her education with the same viligence as her running and hopes to one day be a neuro-surgeon? I may have also forgottent to mention her parents are equally as sunny and may be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The character of the people in South Orange continues to inspire me.