Deraj McClinton thrives on the hustle and bustle of life
April 23, 2012
USAG Grafenwoehr celebrates Month of the Military Child
VILSECK, Germany -- Darej McClinton walks the halls of Vilseck High School with confidence. She has a slight swagger that suggests she's laid back and can easily go with the flow. She stops short in front of her locker and opens it - revealing a cascade of thick textbooks, homework speckled papers and spiral notebooks. She reaches into the depths of the crowded abyss, pulling out a black softball glove. As she slams the locker shut, the strap on her book bag tries to escape, only to be caught in the crease of the door.
"It's a mess, I know," says the 17-year-old senior.
With a slight grin she adds, "I'm just lazy," then breaks into a hearty laugh - one that seems more ironic than funny as McClinton is anything but lazy.
In fact, her schedule is dizzying with the hustle and bustle of social life and schoolwork, mixed with numerous extracurricular activities.
The active student breaks up her everyday academia with an intensive sports routine, participating in volleyball, basketball and softball throughout the school year.
"I'm busy all year-round," she said. "They are back-to-back with no rest, but I like it that way."
Claiming softball as her favorite sport because players are "outside and in the dirt," the utility player has mastered the shortstop, pitcher and catcher positions and has garnered impressive honors during her tenure including European All Tournament Team, All Region 1st Team and the title of Team Most Valuable Player, Infield, in 2010. The accolades continued into 2011 as McClinton was selected for the European All Tournament Team, All Region 1st Team again, All European 1st Team and the Kaiserslautern Military Community All Star Team.
Her basketball narrative is equally impressive, qualifying for the European All Region Guard 1st Team in 2010 and 2011, while being named Team All Around Player of the Year in 2011.
McClinton says that sports run her day-to-day, have taught her about life, given her lasting friendships and helped her through five deployments.
"Being involved with so many sporting activities has taught me that everything doesn't go your way, but if you work hard enough you'll get what you deserve."
Same goes for being a military brat.
"You have to be open-minded when you're in a military family," said McClinton. "You have to accept what is thrown at you and not let it stir you up; you can't change it, you just have to make the best of any situation."
Like many Vilseck High School students, McClinton has been in the military system nearly all her life. But unlike many of her peers, McClinton has been stationed in Germany for more than 10 years. As friends come and go year after year, she remains here in Bavaria and continues to make the best out of it.
"It's a unique experience. We get to visit so many amazing places. I think people probably dream of escaping to Europe, to visit and see what we get to experience every day," said McClinton. "It's mind-blowing, but it's been all I know. This is my normal."
The only complaint to come out of the cheery student was within the realm of her attention-grabbing performances in the field and on the court.
"You don't get as much recognition here as you would in the States; coaches must rely on video and you can't really focus on one sport the whole year," she said.
This was a small hurdle for the celebrated athlete and one she overcame seamlessly.
"My life is about to change drastically," said McClinton, who will give up her the European lifestyle to play softball for New Mexico State in the fall. "You really have no way to prepare, and I know it'll be a challenge."
A shy grin crept across the young girl's face as she added, "Then again, I always enjoy a challenge."