Many teenagers suffer from mild insomnia. It’s all part of the reaction to the influx of hormones that are battling inside their young bodies. For 17 year-old Nena Claycomb of Louisville, KY – that insomnia sparked career goals.
Instead of tossing and turning at night, she would do what most teenagers do – turn on the TV. For some odd reason, Claycomb found herself attracted to the late night infomercials that are considered boring or lame to most people her age.
However, one infomercial in particular would stand out above the rest and inspire her to develop the dream of becoming a humanitarian. That infomercial highlighted children in Third World countries who were born with cleft lip.
“My dream, this is like years and years from now, is to go back to school… My thing that I want to do is help kids in Third World countries who have cleft lip. I want to go on volunteer trips and go across Third world countries and help them with their cleft lips.” – Nena Claycomb
According to WebMD cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.
A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip. This separation often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or upper gum.
Traveling the globe and helping the less fortunate is her long-term goal – but Claycomb also has a list of short-term goals that she wants to scratch off her “to-do-list” first. Her career goals are to become either an attorney or a cardiac surgeon. She settled on those because she says, “You can help people with both jobs.”
It seems as though this teenager has formed some sort of visual correlation with her career interests. Just as the infomercials sparked her philanthropy interests – YouTube videos of open-heart surgeries sparked her interest in becoming a cardiac surgeon.
“I like the way the heart works… I watched a whole bunch of open heart surgeries on YouTube when I was bored one day… I want to shadow someone one day just to make sure that I know what I’m getting into but it looks pretty cool.” – Nena Claycomb
Identifying, preparation and execution have always been a part of Claycomb’s personality since she was a small child. Her natural instinct is to master everything that she becomes engaged in.
She began playing organized soccer at the age of four and has remained a member of a soccer organization ever since. She would play in youth soccer leagues as a young child and later join her middle and high school teams. Since the age of seven, Claycomb has always been the top scorer on all of her teams.
Becoming a top scorer didn’t come easy. Claycomb would put in hard hours at practice on her quest to become the best. Her natural gift of speed and observation helped her develop skills that would make her illusive on the soccer field. In the process, she would develop techniques that would give her an edge over her opponents.
“It’s all about foot placement and where you strike the ball. Your left foot’s your plant foot and whatever direction your plant foot is facing – that’s the direction your ball is going to go in. So, if you’re pointing it directly at the goalie, then that’s where it’s going to go. That’s why goalies wear bright colors – because if you look at the goalie and notice their bright colors, you’re more likely to kick towards the goalie.” – Nena Claycomb
Her hard work would pay off big when she entered high school. During her freshman year at Louisville’s Eastern High School, Claycomb’s soccer coach would notice her talent and allow her to compete on both – the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams. She would end up winning the “Offensive” MVP her freshman and sophomore years – and “Overall” MVP award for her play on the JV team.
As to be expected, Claycomb puts in just as much hard work into her academics as she does athletics and extracurricular activities. She’s averaged a 3.7 g.p.a. throughout her entire academic career, she’s played the violin since the fourth grade and is a part of the Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. She is also the President of the “Mock Trial” organization and Black Student Union at Eastern High School.
Mock Trial is an after school club that allows students to learn the policies and procedures that take place in America’s courtrooms on a day-to-day basis. Being that one of her career goals is to possibly become an attorney – this club is the perfect prerequisite for that goal. Claycomb says that she loves the experience.
“The room is set up like a real court room. There’s a podium set up and people acting like judges. You have to learn proper etiquette, like where to stand etc… You have to learn how to write questions and objections… You have to learn how to dissect the case and find loopholes and know your perspective on things… I learned a lot. It’s a lot different than Law & Order.” – Nena Claycomb
With a plate as full as Claycomb’s, one would think that she wouldn’t have time for much else. Quite the contrary. Somehow, she also manages to do all the things that regular teenagers do and still squeeze some volunteer work in on the side.
She works part-time at a grocery, volunteers regularly at her church and her family’s non-profit organization (Claycomb ACCademy), and has her own babysitting business. She’s a member of First Baptist Church of J-Town and shares found memories of her favorite time of the year.
“My favorite thing to do is during the winter when us girls will get into the kitchen and make a whole bunch of cookies and candies. It takes us like 4 or 5 hours. Then we’ll box them up… There’s a lot of elderly people who might not get gifts because their kids may be away, so we go around the neighborhood and give them treats we made so they won’t feel lonely.” – Nena Claycomb
Claycomb’s hard work and dedication has paid off. She has been awarded an academic and athletic scholarship from Georgetown College, as well as academic scholarships from Midway University and Eastern Kentucky University.
Continuing her commitment to giving back – she looks forward to her appointment as the Keynote Speaker at Ramsey Middle School’s Athletic Banquet this year.
Speaking at this event is nostalgic for Claycomb, being that she is a former graduate of Ramsey, who also was a member of the dance and soccer teams while she attended school there. Making the appointment more meaningful is the fact that her two younger siblings attend Ramsey and participate in athletics.
Today we live in a society where young people are often portrayed for their negative behaviors as opposed to highlighting their positives. The images are so skewed they will lead many to believe that the young generation is a lost generation. That’s the farthest thing from the truth. Nena Claycomb is a prime example that our future is looking bright and there are many more shining stars – just like her.