Mackenzie Culp is hardly a follower. A 17-year-old senior at Salem Academy, she’s co-president of the schools’ Black Student Union, is on the Fellowship Council and, underneath that tiger suit, is the school’s mascot.
But one time she admits being a follower has worked out pretty good, too. In the seventh grade, attending Summit School, she was trying to figure out what sports to play to meet the school’s athletic requirement.
“You had to play two sports a year,” Culp said. “I was going to do volleyball, but a lot of my friends were playing field hockey, and I decided to be a follower and go for it. I usually try not to be a follower.”
Six years later, Culp is still playing field hockey, manning a defensive role for the Sabres, either on the left side or in the middle of the defense.
Culp, in her third year playing at Salem Academy, loves the peculiar — to some — stick used in field hockey.
“I love being very technical with my stick and doing all the tricks you can do with it: lift the ball, sweep it, chip it,” she said.
“I love to air dribble — to scoop the ball off the ground and dribble it on my stick — you can’t do that in other sports.
“My coach wants me to do it in a game, but I’ve been a little hesitant. There are rules about how high you can carry the ball on your stick, and I think I air dribble it pretty high.”
In addition to English, her native tongue, Cole speaks Spanish and is working on Portuguese — the better to listen to Brazilian Funk, one of her favorite musical styles, along with hip-hop and Latin pop.
“For a long time, I wanted to be a singer,” she said. “I loved Hannah Montana when I was little, and I was in a chorus for several years, and I sang solos. I thought that would be my thing. But then, I realized I couldn’t make a career out of it.
“At the same time, I was reading the Theodore Boone books (a series about a kid lawyer, written by John Grisham), and “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, and I was impressed by all the things he was able to do to affect things.
“I decided I’d like to be a lawyer, and if I was an entertainment lawyer, working with copyrights and contracts, I could put those two things together.”