Tennis star shines off the court, too

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Regular viewers of our Reaching 4 Excellence segment on outstanding teenagers and children know we don't feature them for their athletic accomplishments. That's the job of the Fox 4 Sports department. But we don't discount young people from consideration for recognition just because they are great at sports. So it is with with this week's Fox 4 Young Achiever -- a star who shines brightly on and off the tennis court.

Hard to believe watching her play tennis that when she's not on the court with a racket in her hand people know Sara Goodwin as mild-mannered, quiet, even reserved, because on the court, especially in a big match, Sara is a tiger.

"I'm pretty intense on the tennis court and pretty competitive," says Sara with a small smile.

It's a fierce competitive spirit that has helped Sara become a two-time Kansas state high school champion as just a junior, one of the region's premier national players and the Kansas City Star metro high school girls' tennis player of the year.

With so much talent as an athlete and her many honors and trophies from the tennis court, Sara is very well grounded in what really matters to her when it comes to achievement.

"It's not the main reason I'm here, I guess," says Sara. "In the end, tennis isn't going going to be a deciding factor for me because I really enjoy other things. I guess just finding that balance was important for me."

Balance that starts with with academics and leadership at Kansas City Christian School. With a GPA that puts her at the top of her class Sara takes on the most demanding coursework, like Advanced Placement Biology, preparing for a potential career in medicine.

"I've just learned that pushing yourself, challenging yourself is a lot better route to take than just coasting, just in any area of life, just to challenge myself to be he best that I can," says Sara. Sara doesn't coast in anything. She is junior class president at KCCS and a powerful role model and mentor for 12 middle school girls as she leads them in Bible study and helps them navigate the sometimes rough waters of school and life.

"I think that they really see her as an inspiration, too, and just someone they can see has done such great work in a lot of different areas and has become really successful," says KCCS teacher Alicia Kahler who has taught Sara for several semesters of Spanish and "disciples" her in Bible study and leadership at school. "I know that it has really inspired me personally and has made me want to be an even better leader, also."

"I hope that someday they'll look back and want to do the same thing for another girl when they're in high school," says Sara, "because I know I had a lot of really good mentors in my life and so it's been great to have someone to look up to and I hope that they'll want to be that person when they get older."

And somehow Sara finds quality time to do the important work that gives her her greatest joy and satisfaction -- tirelessly volunteering for several charities and community causes.

Sara is especially drawn to the Salvation Army Children's Shelter in midtown Kansas City, working with very young children who have been abused or neglected or whose parents haven't been able to care for them.

"I play with the children a lot and go on excursions with them and just spend a lot of time with them, says Sara. "I'll just hold them for awhile because they haven't had a lot of love and attention. It's really awesome to make an impact in their life because they haven't had the opportunities that I have."

"She goes above and beyond any of our volunteers, really," says Amanda Buehler, former director of the shelter who guided Sara's volunteer efforts there for quite some time.

"There are a lot of volunteers that come and go that are two times or three times her age that don't have a lot on their plate and she's got a lot on her plate because of school and tennis and everything. She just continues to come and I can tell that's really her passion. Even when she leaves here she's going to go on and do better and bigger and better things with children in some really big aspect of her life."

Strong dedication and commitment to go with a remarkable competitive spirit -- making Sara a true champion in tennis -- and in life.

"I do a lot of things for myself and I want to be able to give back and do something that's really going to matter in the end," says Sara. "In the end, I'll remember the community service and what I did for other people." A smash hit.

Sara is very humble and unpretentious about her many stellar accomplishments, qualities that endear her all the more to all who admire and respect her. That includes her peers last summer at Kanakuk Kamp in southern Missouri, a Christian youth sports and leadership camp, who last year elected Sara to return in 2013 as Camp Princess, Kanakuk's top leadership and character honor.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 5 p.m.

Know someone you'd like to nominate? Send Phil an email:

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