This inspirational story comes to us from the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP), which we did a column on a few years back.
Locally, the Swain School in Allentown, Defranco Elementary School in Bangor, Bangor Area Middle School and Bangor Area High School are involved in the program. The sport affords an opportunity for youngsters who don’t care to or can’t participate in ball sports, be a part of the scholastic sports environment.
And in this particular situation, Faith Oakley, a junior at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky, proves that determination and dedication to the sport of archery is possible, and she is creating quite a buzz in the archery world, according to Brittany J. Jones of NASP.
“Oakley, is not your average archer. She began shooting with NASP® in the fifth grade, but actually got her first taste of archery at summer camp the year prior. “At summer camp, my cabin would to go to the archery range once a day. The coach there asked me if I wanted to shoot. I was hesitant at first, but she offered to hold the bow for me while I drew back the string and aimed. When we went to shoot with the team, my first arrow was a bulls-eye.” Oakley says, “I was so proud of myself, that I immediately wanted to shoot again. When I got home, I told my parents I wanted to shoot archery in the fifth grade.”
Oakley’s perseverance, persistence and dedication to this sport over the years has earned her many achievements like attaining ninth place at the 2017 NASP® World Tournament, and she has been named, “One of the World’s Top Teen Archers”, but it has not come without challenges.
Oakley has a birth injury known as ERB Duchenne Palsy. It is a condition that causes nerves to be pulled away from the spine. For Faith Oakley, it makes it impossible for her to use her right arm. Since it is impossible for her to pull the bowstring back with her arm, she uses a rectangular nylon mouthpiece to pull back the string. Oakley does not let her physical challenge define her. Faith’s coach of three years, David Carrico, can also attest to her determination. “Faith is like any other teenager. She has her good days and bad days. When it comes to archery, she has the drive to be the best!” According to Carrico, when Faith was in middle school and when she found time, she would often participate in the high school archery practices. It’s no wonder she has achieved such high honors and titles with her history and continued tenacity for the sport.
When Ms. Oakley was asked if she had any advice for other youth contemplating archery, her response was nothing short of inspiring. “If you are a student who is thinking about starting anything, especially NASP®, but feel like it might be too difficult for whatever reason, I beg of you to take that dream and run with it.” She also added, “I was scared out of my mind to start a sport where the majority of people competing were able-bodied, but I am so glad I did. If I had given into that fear, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am no different than you. If you have a dream, go for it!”
For Faith Oakley, archery is a sport that has “grown it’s roots deep in to her core.” Not only has the sport increased her patience, discipline, strength, and stability, it has given her numerous opportunities for the future. After graduation, she plans on attending a college that has an archery team and possibly trying out for the USA Para-Olympics Archery Team, as well. She also plans on pursuing a degree in Education.”
If you’re a parent of a student who would like to give NASP a try at their school, it’s recommended that interest be conveyed to your school district and to Samantha Pedder at the PGC (717-787-4250 ext. 3327). Pedder will contact the school to assist in selling the program to administrators. You can also check www.facebook.com/PennNASP for more detailed information.
The best part for parents on a tight budget, is that the Pennsylvania Game Commission furnishes all the equipment free of charge. The only requisite is that the school provides a coach. So there’s limited expense and, realistically, there has to be some teachers that are bowhunters or archery shooters in local schools who could give freely of some time for this life-long sport.
The program has local championship tournaments with one being held at Penn State in State College where a record turnout of over 1,100 students from 41 Pennsylvania schools participated in this statewide tournament that had the largest field in history. The top shooters of local tournaments then have a chance to participate in the national NASP tournament.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.