Bainbridge teen leads by example

4/20/2010

Adults and teens alike could learn a thing or two about time management from 17-year-old Maggie Bridges.

Bridges, a junior at Southwest Georgia Academy and the daughter of John and Cathy Bridges of Brinson, is constantly on the go with school, sports, community service and church activities. 

A member of Bainbridge First United Methodist Church, she participates in the youth praise band and youth leadership team, sings in the chancel choir and joined other members of her church on a mission trip to Mexico last year.

An honor roll student, Bridges has a grueling weekly schedule: dance and swim practice on Mondays; swim practice on Tuesdays; swim practice, church, praise band, and chancel choir practice on Wednesdays; and ballet and swim practice on Thursdays.

Her weekends are fully booked, too; her calendar is completely filled from now until late June.

“I’ve learned a lot about stress management and how to manage my schedule and how to fit everything in,” Bridges said.  “I’ve learned how important timing is when you’re balancing a really busy schedule.  It’s fun and I have a good time with it; when I’m not busy I don’t do as well in school because I don’t manage my time as well.  If I have 30 minutes, I study or do something constructive instead of sitting around doing nothing.”

As if her school, church, sports and extracurricular activities weren’t enough to keep her busy, Bridges participates in pageants, and in June will compete against 35 other young women at the Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen scholarship pageant.  In 2009, her first year participating in the pageant, which is affiliated with the Miss America Organization, she finished second runner-up. This year, she has qualified by being named the 2010 Miss Southern Heartland’s Outstanding Teen.

As part of her involvement in the Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen pageant, she had to choose a platform, much like the Miss America pageant contestants do.  Passionate about fitness and wellness, Bridges’ platform is “Fit for Life: Building Tomorrow’s Lifestyles.”  As part of her platform education and awareness campaign, she planned, organized and hosted the Fit for Life 5K and Fun Run, held March 13 in Bainbridge. 

Bridges raised about $1,500 for the Children’s Miracle Network, a non-profit organization that raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals.  It is also the official platform of the Miss America Organization.

Competing in her first pageant at the age of seven, Bridges says that she was so scared she almost ran off the stage crying.

“I had some serious stage fright.”

She credits her pageant involvement with helping her become more confident and poised.

“It’s one of the things that has made me who I am today,” the articulate and well-spoken teen said. 

She also credits her family – she’s the oldest of five children – her church and her faith with molding and shaping her.

“I love our youth program and my church in general; I feel like it’s part of who I am,” she said.  “It’s like my second family.  The people there are awesome and I’ve grown up with all the kids there.  It’s just a really, really great church and I’m glad to call it mine.”

Jimmy “Steve” Shelton, youth pastor at Bainbridge First UMC, says that Bridges has learned her strong worth ethic and servant spirit from her family.  He often sees three generations of Bridges sitting together at church.

“They have a very, very strong family,” he said.  “She very much embodies the spirit of a servant and the example Christ set for us. If she sees a need, she’s going to take care of that need.  If we have a project or fundraiser that we’re doing, she’s quick to take charge and coordinate people. She will do whatever is asked of her; she’s always ready to help out with anything.

“As a youth pastor, you always want to have a few ‘Maggies’ in your youth group.  She’s a treasure to have in the church and the youth program.”

In all that she does – at school, at church and in the community – Bridges tries to be a role model to those around her.

“Hopefully people can see Jesus in me through my actions,” she said.  “I feel like that’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do – to reflect Him in my walk and everyday life.” 

--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor

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