Basketball is just one of the activities filling the life of St. Mary’s Academy honor student Retha Little. She also volunteers at church and in the community. (photo courtesy St.Mary's Academy)

How many high school sophomores are elected varsity team captain? Or make All-League?

And how many of them carry 4.1 GPAs, volunteer (and then some) in their churches and communities, and pursue careers in the medical field?

Meet Retha Little, scholar-athlete extraordinaire for St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood, graduate of St. Raphael Elementary School in South Los Angeles, active volunteer with the Salvation Army and American Cancer Society, member of a national youth basketball team, and budding medical student aiming to become a primary care physician serving the city in which she’s grown up.

“It’s all about time management,” grins the 15-year-old honor student, during a rare nonbusy moment after school. “I just work hard at organizing my schedule so I can have time for all the things I want to do.”

And much of what she wants to do, she continues, involves helping others.

“That’s what inspires me in life, is to help other people,” she says. “I love to do that, so it takes real time management to be able to play basketball, study for school, prepare for a career, and volunteer. It’s hard work, but I’ve always believed I can do anything I set my mind to, with the help of God.”

Retha’s desire to help others has been nurtured by her mother, an in-home caregiver and teacher of religion at her family’s church, Grace Temple Missionary Church a couple miles from St. Mary’s. Reetha regularly attends church with her mother and assists her in teaching younger children.

She’s also happy to spend her school days in a Catholic environment, appreciative of the opportunities Catholic schools present.

“I enjoy the bonding with the other students,” she says, “and I really believe the Catholic educational experience is better. The teachers support you and connect with you inside and outside the classroom, and I like the smaller school environment.”

Her studies at St. Mary’s are focused on health careers, and she’s done well enough to earn the school’s Principal’s Award for high achievement. Outside the classroom, her schoolwork takes her usually to the basketball court, where she spends countless hours practicing, seeking to improve on what are already a formidable set of skills.

“I like basketball because I’m exposed to other talented players who inspire me to do better,” she says. “And I enjoy the leadership and team bonding aspects. It’s an amazing feeling to accomplish a goal you’ve set out to achieve.”

During her sophomore season, the 5-foot-7-inch shooting and point guard helped St. Mary’s win the Calvary Chapel Grizzly Classic, led the Belles to the second round of the CIF-SS Division 3A playoffs, and was an All-Camino Real League first team selection, averaging 14 points a game.

Having earned Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Sportsmanship Award honors in her first two years, Reetha is intent on setting the bar even higher the next two years, before college beckons.

“I hope I can play Division 1 — that’s my number one goal,” Retha smiles, listing North Carolina Chapel Hill, Auburn, USC and UCLA among her “dream” choices. “But I mainly want to enjoy the sport and continue to do better.”

She’ll get the chance to compete this summer with the Girls Basketball League Lady Rebels 17u (17 and under) Elite National Team that will travel throughout the United States competing in tournaments. It’s a continuation of her life in youth basketball, after playing several years with the Juniors Clippers Academic Basketball Elite organization, whose mission is to teach youths not just basketball skills, but the skills they need to succeed in school and through life.

Retha continues to volunteer with JCAB Elite as a youth counselor, mentor and leader for the organization. “I believe giving back is most important in order to be considered as a leader in my community,” she explains.

She also participates annually in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, a community-based fundraising event; assists the Salvation Army of Inglewood by mentoring kids ages 5-13 and helps with the organization’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Toy Drive; and volunteers for the Bill Pickett Rodeo, a touring event to bring awareness of the history of African-American cowboys and cowgirls to the community.

In her rare spare moments, Retha reads, exercises, listens to music, hangs out with friends and would like to explore photography as a hobby. And, as the youngest of three children, “I enjoy spending time with my family the most.”

As a young woman of faith, she also takes nothing for granted.

“I believe in thanking God for every opportunity and blessing in my life,” she says quietly. “That keeps my faith alive.”