Central Hardin High School sophomore Sierra Spell has her sights set high on a career in medicine.
While still in high school, the 16-year-old participates in pageants, plays in the band, works with an athletic trainer during football games and plays lacrosse — and also maintains high grades.
Spell started competing in pageants when she was 11 and won the Upton Princess competition in her hometown.
She was contacted by the National American Miss organization and started competing in pageants to step out of her comfort zone. Spell said she used to be so shy she’d sit in the corner of a playground reading a book instead of playing with other children.
She then started competing with American Royal Beauties where she won Kentucky Junior Teen, Miss Central Kentucky Junior Teen and the National Spokesmodel Junior Teen.
It’s a natural-based competition that prohibits fake hair, fake teeth, swimsuit competitions and excessive make up, Spell said.
“I can feel like myself but also be out of my comfort zone,” she said.
The pageants also offer scholarships. Her mother, Megan Dale, said participants have to excel in school in order to be accepted into the pageant program.
In her spokesmodel role, Spell promotes suicide prevention.
“When I was in eighth-grade, my best friend sent me her suicide note via text message and luckily I was able to get to her in time,” she said.
But she realized that isn’t the case in all situations.
“I know my voice may not seem big but I know that a lot of little voices make one big voice and that makes change,” she said.
Spell also is involved in band and was invited to play in Europe this summer. She plays the saxophone.
She has a special connection to music. Both her mom and dad, Jeff Spell, were in band. Her dad died when she was in the eighth-grade.
She was close with her father, and her mother said when he died, Spell shut herself down for a while.
When she plays, Spell said it’s a way to connect with him.
“I feel like every time I get to play we are playing together because we never got to do that,” she said.
While she’s on the lacrosse team at Central, during football season Spell works with athletic trainer Jeremy Steakley.
“I have been very fortunate and spoiled here at Central Hardin to have such a wonderful and caring athletic training student who goes above and beyond each day to provide the best level of medical care to our athletes,” Steakley said.
He called her his “go-to person” both in the training room and sidelines.
“She always brings a positive attitude and a smile every day to work,” he said. “She soaks up everything I can teach her about the profession and always wants to put her best effort forward.”
Spell said she loves football and through working with Steakley, got a taste of helping people.
She plans on going into medicine as a future career, sports medicine is a possibility but she also wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“Mental disease is something close to me,” she said, adding she has seen how it hurts people and wants to be a part of something that can change the disease.
She’s already been in contact with Johns Hopkins University to attend college there. She was invited to a medical camp there this summer but it’s too pricey, she said.
Her dreams are big.
“There’s no dream that’s too small or too big,” she said. “The only thing that’s stopping it is yourself.”
Her mother described her as a “pretty smart cat.”
“I’m proud of her” she said through tears. “She pushes herself really hard.”
In kindergarten and first grade, she had good teachers that helped her fall in love with school, Dale said. She would even ask for homework to take home and do during the summer, she said.
Spell said she couldn’t do any of it without her mom.
She likes the challenge of being involved in many things.
Spell said sometimes she has concerts, games and practice all in one day.
“Some days I get out of my all-black concert outfit and zip into my uniform and I’m like ‘grrrr’ ready to go,” she said.
As put together as she sounds, her mom said she still has a messy room filled with several collections, like stuffed animals, lapel pins, coke bottles, shot glasses and more.
“OK, I collect a few things,” Spell admitted while laughing.