If you need to reach Bailee Patel, check the pool or the classroom because that's her main focus during her senior year at Paducah Tilghman High School.
The 17-year-old loves swimming and that passion motivates her to wake up before the crack of dawn many days to start a busy schedule of practices, school, homework, extracurriculars and whatever else that needs to be done. It's a serious test of time management, but Patel likes the routine -- if not the early mornings -- and she's definitely up for the challenge.
"It's taught me how to prioritize, how to manage my time, especially with high school and taking all of these hard AP classes," Patel said. "It's been really challenging kind of throughout high school to manage my grades and then, also, putting in the work for swimming."
This delicate balance taught her how to devote time to something and self-motivate, while working hard and pushing to be the best she can be.
It's crucial too because swimmers rely on themselves in the pool for their individual races. There isn't a team to back you up and it's "all on you."
"It's taught me to be self-reliant and I just think that carrying that into college will help me grow as a person and it's also something that I love," she said. "I want to be able to contribute to a team and really to be able to compete for four more years."
Patel, the daughter of Paducah residents Melanie and Shiraz Patel, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday and Tuesday, The Sun will publish a feature story highlighting area high school seniors selected from a pool of nominees. The different nominees are submitted by high school guidance counselors.
Toward the end of the year, one Teen of the Week recipient is chosen by a selection committee for "Teen of the Year" recognition. The honor comes with a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will receive the Inspirational Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Patel is a top student at Paducah Tilghman with a No. 9 class ranking and cumulative GPA above 4.0, along with her status as an AP Scholar. In her high school career, she's been involved in student council, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Interact Club, Pep Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Tilghman Bell newspaper and Tilghman Swim Team, where she's been co-captain and captain.
She's also a longtime member of the Paducah Swim Team.
While Patel loves swimming, it's pre-med that she's got her eye on for career goals. It's not a surprising career path because she comes from a "line of doctors," including her father, an orthopedic surgeon and an aunt, who works as an OB/GYN in Minnesota.
In particular, Patel wants to study women's health and obstetrics. She is surrounded by women and girls, such as her mother, sisters, aunt and female cousins, which Patel describes as empowering.
"I've kind of always grown up knowing that that's what I wanted to do, just because that's what I was interested in and then combining that with my passion of empowering women and really being able to make a difference in their lives," she said.
In the meantime, Patel said she's focusing on enjoying senior year at Paducah Tilghman, schoolwork and some swimming goals she set. Luckily, she knows what she wants to do after high school, but her specific university is not finalized yet.
Patel shared that she's leaning toward Rollins College in Florida.
"And then I'll apply to Centre College in Danville and then Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, but as of right now, I'm set on Rollins," she said.
By Kelly Farrell