The Norman Transcript

April 15, 2008

Name recognition

Transcript Staff Writer

A Norman teenager has turned her name into a nonprofit agency that encourages the Native Americans to live healthy lifestyles. And her efforts are gaining national attention.

Next month, 14-year-old Caitlin Baker will be inducted into the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center in the Sports Museum of America in Manhattan, N.Y., as the only youth Native American nonprofit group. Baker's organization CAITLINB will be featured in the community service exhibit.

Two years ago, Baker decided she wanted to promote the benefits of exercising and healthy eating and target American Indians. Baker, an eighth-grader at All Saints Catholic School, is a member of the Muscogee Creek tribe.

She said her mission is to alert Native American youth on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including exercise. She partnered with the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic and formed Competitive American Indians Turning Lifestyles Into New Beginnings also known as CAITLINB.

"When I first started, I had all these ideas," Baker said.

She travels to cities in the state and speaks to people of all ages about reducing the rate of diabetes, suicides, drug/alcohol abuse and dropping out of school.

"CAITLINB is about involving other individuals," Baker said.

The teenager said medical studies show the Native American community has a higher risk of developing diabetes. In order to lower her chances of becoming diabetic, Baker said she must stay twice as active as a non-native person.

For the past five years, she has competed as a member of the Sooner Swim Club. Baker said swimming is a year-round sport and recommends it for any child.

"I always try to get kids involved in swimming," she said.

Baker also volunteers at Turtle Camp, a recreation setting for children diagnosed with diabetes in Oklahoma City.

In addition to heading CAITLINB, Baker works with the SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) program to advocate changes to the City of Norman's smoking policies in public parks.

The girl's mother Edith Baker said she is proud of her daughter's success and supports the initiative she's taken.

"Caitlin is very passionate about it," she said. "She gets up there, she can talk, lead a group, and she can talk to 5-year-olds or tribal leaders."

The mother said the teenager has gained respect from all age groups including children.

"I think kids respect her because she is honest with them," she said.

Meghan McCormick 366-3539