By Stacy Turner
When Akia Lampkin’s daughter, A’Nia Churn, was in the first grade, she encouraged A'Nia to join the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio. A'Nia's older sister had benefited from the organization, and Lampkin thought her introverted youngest child would benefit from being involved in the program, as well. As a former employee of a Girl Scout Council, Lampkin was very familiar with the organization’s mission to help girls build courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. She wanted to encourage her youngest to make friends and step out of her comfort zone.
“I’ve really seen her bloom,” Lampkin shared. “While A’Nia used to shy away from opportunities, her confidence has really grown. She’s more willing to take risks, and more willing to advocate for herself,” she added. She credits Girls Scouts for helping A'Nia bring out her self-confidence. Fast forward several years, where A’Nia, still a Girl Scout, had the opportunity to try out for an organized sport for the first time at Willoughby Middle School in the seventh grade. Lampkin encouraged each of her children to be involved in athletics to help develop socialization skills, experience something new, and for the lessons learned by being part of a team. As an added bonus, sports can help bolster academics, since student athletes are required to keep their grades up.
“I didn’t really like sports,” A’Nia shared, “but I did it to meet people,” she admitted. She decided to give volleyball a try, since several of her friends were trying out. When she didn’t make the team, she didn’t let that setback get her down. According to her mom, she charged full steam ahead into her first season of track. “She learned that when she put in the hard work, she was successful,” Lampkin explained. “She may not always be first, but she learned that she could accomplish anything she puts her mind to.”
As parents, isn’t that what we all strive to instill in our kids?
Her success on the Willoughby Middle School track team led to her joining the Cleveland Mustangs Track & Field Club, where A’Nia competes with other Cleveland-area youth. As a part of the Mustangs, A’Nia became the 2018 Middle School Western Conference Champ for the 200-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash. She competed in the Ohio Middle School Championships, where she took home a gold medal in the 4x100 meter relay, and 4th place in the 200-meter dash. She is also the current Ohio Region 4 District Gold Medal winner in the 200-meter hurdles, the 400-meter dash, the 4x100 meter relay, and the 4x400 meter relay.
A’Nia's hard work paved the way for the opportunity to compete against the best athletes from across the country at the Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. While there, she competed in the 200-meter hurdles and placed fifth in her age group across the country. In the 400-meter dash, she placed 52nd out of 82 athletes, and her 4x400 meter relay team took 22nd place in their age group. “I was proud she got there,” Lampkin beamed.
While being able to race in the Junior Olympics is an impressive feat, what’s even more impressive is that A’Nia only started running competitively this year. “She’s had a rough school year,” her mom noted, “and to be able to walk away with such a big success, in spite of her struggles, was a very emotional experience,” Lampkin shared. “She was proud of herself and she enjoyed it,” her mom beamed.
This month, A’Nia returns to eighth grade. As far as her future plans, according to her mom, “the sky is the limit. Her sport may help provide scholarships to college. She may be the next track & field Olympian.” Lampkin added, “No matter what comes her way, she’ll be able to persevere.” Her coaches have commented that what they enjoyed most was that A’Nia doesn’t complain, and she’s coachable. “As long as she keeps that attitude to learn and grow, she can do anything, ” her mom noted.
A’Nia has excelled due to the encouragement she received from Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, Willoughby Middle School and her involvement with the Cleveland Mustangs.
She offers this advice to other girls, “Push yourself and see what happens. Most likely, you’ll do well. Even if you don’t think you’ll like something, listen to your parents and try it anyway.”
For more information about Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, visit gsneo.org
or call 800-852-4474.