Ashton Rudy's passion lies in special education.
The 18-year-old McCracken County High School senior has always loved children and had her mind set "from the beginning" to become a kindergarten teacher. However, her plans changed when she got involved with peer tutoring at Lone Oak Middle School.
"I had a peer tutor teacher and she was phenomenal and she really inspired me -- just her love that she showed for the kids," Rudy recalled.
"And I have been a peer tutor in high school too and that really also made an impact because, just like I said, their love that they showed towards the kids -- no matter what needs that they have, they still love on these kids and help them really find their purpose and just help them succeed in any way possible that they can."
Rudy feels that she's blessed with patience, something people tell her is required, and wants to help meet the demand for special education teachers.
"I just really found special education very inspiring because these kids, even though they might have something that's affecting their lives, they still have a purpose in life too," Rudy said. "And I want to do anything that I can personally to just help them in any way that's possible."
Rudy, daughter of Matt and Heather Rudy of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday and Tuesday, The Sun profiles area high school students who are chosen from a pool of nominees for Teen of the Week recognition. Around the end of the school year, a selection committee will choose one of these students for Teen of the Year, which carries a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive the Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Rudy ranks among the top of her class at McCracken County High School with a cumulative weighted 4.41 grade-point average and unweighted 4.0 GPA. She serves as National Honor Society vice president and Beta Club secretary. She graduated from Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's Youth LEAD program. She's also a four-year member of Lady Mustangs' varsity basketball team.
"I like the overall team aspect in basketball," she said. "It's really taught me a lot of things in my life, and I love all the relationships that I get to build doing this sport."
She credits basketball for teaching her how to be a leader, making sacrifices to reach goals and dealing with adversity, as sometimes, nothing goes exactly to plan during the season.
"I really had to learn -- our team -- has had to learn how to fight and just persevere no matter what ups and downs we're given," Rudy added.
In fact, it was her basketball coach who encouraged Rudy to apply for the Semper Fidelis All-American Program, presented by the U.S. Marine Corps. She was selected as one of 96 high school juniors nationwide and attended the four-day Battles Won Academy in Washington, D.C., last summer, where they heard from professionals like Ashton Eaton, an Olympic gold medalist in decathlon, Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, and Becky Hammon, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
Rudy said it was a chance to meet people from all over that were just like her.
"It was crazy to see all that come together, and I really got to learn a bunch of different things and listen to a bunch of different people that all inspire me and made me think about leadership, sports, adversity and a lot different perspectives than (how) I was thinking about it," she said.
High school graduation is right around the corner, but Rudy is staying busy with basketball season, AP classes and dual credit courses at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in the meantime. She's been accepted into the University of Kentucky for the fall and plans to study special education.
By: Kelly Farrell