Cheerleading captain pursuing interest in medicine
She's aiming for a career in medicine, and a North Augusta High School class in anatomy helped light the fire for honor student Bailie Sparks, now in her senior year as one of the highest-achieving students in her class.
The captain of the Yellow Jackets cheerleading squad is also a member of the National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She sports a grade-point average of 3.97.
Referring to a favorite class, she recalled, "I know that high-school anatomy is way different than college anatomy, but it introduced me to a whole new field that I didn't know much of."
That course, she said, led her to an Advanced Placement class in biology, and her keen interest in medicine has continued.
Why pediatrics? "I just love kids and I love the medical field, so ... I just figure they mix well," she said.
Sparks is consistently "a joy to be around, and she could literally brighten up any classroom," in the words of former classmate and cheerleading teammate Sydney Scaggs, now a freshman at Clemson.
"She's always positive, no matter what the circumstances she's in," Scaggs added.
Sparks, the youngest of John and Julie Sparks' three children, has had the chance to show an upbeat spirit in the local school system from start to finish.
"I came from Hammond Hill Elementary and then went to North Augusta Middle School and ... North Augusta High School. I've been a Bee and a Jacket my entire life," she said, with a laugh.
Her next step may be life as a Cougar, a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. "I would like to ... go to the College of Charleston, hopefully, and then ... go to the Medical University of South Carolina, and there, definitely go into the medical field."
"Hope," in Sparks' case, is extremely close to reality, as she received her acceptance letter from the College of Charleston just before Christmas - an occasion for happy tears, her mother recalled.
Opportunities abound, Sparks said, naming such possible roles as pediatrician, nurse anesthetist or physician's assistant.
Major encouragement came by way of Susan Davis, who was Sparks' second-year algebra teacher.
She cited the example of how Davis would encourage students, when running into a roadblock with homework, to wrestle with the problem themselves for a while, before going to the teacher for help.
Sparks' church home these days is Midland Valley Community Church of the Nazarene, with encouragement from friend LauraBeth Winchester, who is also a senior at the high school.
Winchester chose the word "dedicated" as a major one in describing Sparks.
"Whatever she does, she is all in, and she goes 100 percent for everything she does," Winchester added.
"She thinks of others way more than she thinks of herself, which is awesome. She's always putting others first and making sure everyone around her is OK before she worries about herself."
The end result, Winchester said, is "one of the nicest people I've ever met."
"She's a very sharp young lady - a fun-loving and outgoing kind of girl," added Mike O'Hair, the Nazarene congregation's pastor to families with students.
Sparks has also taken part in various pageants, and is now the Distinguished Young Woman (formerly known as Junior Miss) of South Aiken County, with classmate Amelia Carter as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Aiken County.
Carter, one of Sparks' longtime friends, confirmed that an upbeat outlook is a part of the package. "I think that's what most people enjoy about her. You don't have to worry about her having a bad attitude. She's always there and going to make the best out of everything."