William Skelton describes his only daughter, Michelle, as a model student, athlete and citizen.
“I only wish she had been born as a twin so that I would have another just like her,” said the longtime Temple Terrace resident and father of four.
Her mother, Nadine Skelton, portrays Michelle as someone who’s always on “auto pilot.”
“She’s the kind of kid who works quietly and not the type who moans and groans about what she has to do or brags about what she has done,” she said. “She’s focused and she’s independent.”
Throughout her school career, the 16-year-old soon-to-be 11th-grader in the International Baccalaureate program at has never received anything less than an “A” grade.
But at the same time, Michelle manages to take breaks from of her demanding academic schedule to engage in her other interests that include cheerleading, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, softball and doing countless good deeds as a member of Troop 662.
Involved in scouting since kindergarten, the teen has earned the organization’s prestigious Bronze and Silver awards. But her latest scouting accomplishment is one that is the nearest and dearest to her heart.
Michelle is among just 45 of the nearly 22,000 girls from eight counties that comprise the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Council to recently attain the Gold Award, one that’s equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award.
Only about five percent of eligible Girl Scouts nationwide achieve such a high level, according to Susan Barnes, director of Communications for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida.
The project that earned Michelle her Gold Award was centered on , a Temple Terrace-based sports program in which youngsters with disabilities are paired with buddies to assist them.
It so happens that her eldest brother James, diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, has been among the scores of players from throughout the Tampa Bay area who’ve participated in the program since its 2009 inception.
Often accompanying James during the seven-week 2012 spring season, Michelle spent every Saturday photographing and subsequently framing photos of each of the 77 players and their 80 buddies to give as mementos to them and their parents.
The store in Temple Terrace discounted its price to print the photos and GSWCF donated some money toward the cost of the frames. Michelle’s family members contributed the remainder.
The previous year, Michelle took photos of the just the players, which she also had printed and then personally framed and presented to them.
The idea, she said, came to her while she was looking through an album of Buddy Baseball photos her mother had taken during previous seasons.
“It made me think that the parents of these kids would want more than to see the backs of their kids’ heads,” Michelle said.
The survey she sent out following her project reinforced her mindset in that all the responses she received were positive. But, there was one from a parent that especially caught her attention.
“My son picks up the picture and shows it to everyone who comes to our house,” the mother wrote.
Michelle, who has aspirations of becoming a dentist, said she’ll continue contributing to the Buddy Baseball program as long as she can and she’s hopeful her youngest brother Joseph’s affiliation with a local Boy Scout troop will spark that group to carry on the practice she started.
Barnes credits Michelle’s longtime involvement with the Girl Scouts for instilling the leadership skills and self-confidence necessary to plan and complete such an undertaking.
“And because her project is sustainable, the Temple Terrace community will continue to benefit from Michelle’s efforts long after she’s gone on to pursue her life’s goals.”