By Gavin Paterniti
MAYVILLE - If students are looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, they can always start out by attempting to break a school record.
Kara Tenpas, a Chautauqua Lake Central School junior, poses for a photo in front of a familiar setting for her: the swimming pool.
That is what Kara Tenpas, a junior at Chautauqua Lake Central School, did during a recent swimming meet between Chautauqua Lake and Panama Central School.
Kara has been involved with swimming at the Chautauqua Lake district since first participating in the swim-and-dive program in elementary school. Now a five-year member of the varsity swim team, Kara finds herself as the school's all-time record holder in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:08.25.
"We were swimming against Panama, and I didn't have any competition there because we had already swam against them and I had beaten them by a few seconds," Kara said. "So, I thought it was just going to be a normal race. But when I got done and looked at the clock, I thought, 'What just happened?' When I got out of the pool, all my friends were staring at the clock and then we all just started hugging and screaming and jumping around."
Kara, however, does not let her individual accomplishments go to her head, saying that the thing she enjoys most about being a member of the swim team is the team itself.
"Even though we don't play as a team, we're still really close because we push each other to do our best," she said. "And the fact that you're just racing against yourself instead of another person. I didn't race against another girl to get my best, I tried my best to get where I am."
It was due to Kara's team mentality and competitive spirit that she was nominated for this feature by her swimming coach, Paula Kaus.
"Kara is a hard worker and a leader of the team," Kaus said. "She often helps the younger girls improve their backstroke. Even with an illness, she attended the county championships and scored 10th place for the 100-yard backstroke. I am very proud of her."
Despite the extraordinary amount of time Kara has spent in or around swimming pools, her achievements also extend into the classroom. Kara is an accomplished student with an interest in math and science, and has aspirations of becoming a biomedical engineer.
"It has the science aspect where I get to help people, but there is also math; and I love math. So, I kind of get to incorporate both," Kara said.
In anticipation of entering into an engineering program for college, Kara is currently enrolled in Chautauqua Lake's Project Lead the Way program, a series of four hands-on, technology based engineering courses. The program is certified by Rochester Institute of Technology, and students may apply to RIT to receive college credit for their studies at CLCS, which is the only nationally certified Project Lead the Way school district in Chautauqua County.
She has already completed two of the four courses offered in Project Lead the Way - introduction to engineering design and digital electronics - and is currently taking principles of engineering. She has yet to take civil engineering and architecture, but she has thus far obtained eight college credits for the courses she has completed through the program.
Kara is further accumulating college credit by taking JCC-accredited courses in web design, AP U.S. history and statistics.
She is also heavily involved in volunteer work through her youth group at Bemus Point United Methodist Church. She is a dining room volunteer at St. Susan Center, a kitchen staff volunteer for Footsteps of Chautauqua County, is on the "Go Team" for the Methodist Conference Council on Youth Ministries and is on her church's youth leadership team. Kara has traveled to Pittsburgh, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize and Kenya on mission teams working on Bible school programs, construction projects and caring for babies and children in orphanages.
As a result of her volunteer work and her combined academic and athletic prowess, Josh Liddell, secondary school principal, described Kara as a "dynamic and well-rounded student."
"(Kara) is one of Chautauqua Lake's top pre-engineering students, and has high academic marks in all of her course work - especially our Project Lead the Way engineering courses," Liddell said. "Kara exemplifies what we would like to see from all of our Chautauqua Lake students. She has a very exciting and bright future ahead of her."