From your description of winning first place in the art contest when you were 8 years old (congrats, by the way!), it sounds like you like to paint and draw? You love animals? You might look into working as an illustrator, and you might specialize in illustrating animals for books, websites and so on. Just an idea, but if yes, you'll want to work on your skills, and if you are in middle or high school, you should take studio art classes for traditional art skills, but also some computer graphics classes, so you can be up on the latest technology. Many illustrators use both traditional art skills and well as computer programs in their work. As a teacher in a middle school, I tried to prepare my students for both areas, since I knew that the computer graphics classes were very popular in high school and in colleges.
If you do want to specialize in illustrating animals, then be sure to take biology classes in high school and in college. Practice drawing your pets, with 25 (!) you should be able to come up with some really nice drawings, which you could turn into paintings.
This is all I can suggest for you, based on my knowledge an experience. You might want to talk to your art teachers at your school about your interests and see what they say, and also talk to your science teachers , they might have some insights or suggestions about how illustration is used in their fields.
Best of luck!