Throughout high school, Marshall County senior Mattie Dunn has been careful to never put herself in a box.
With an open mind and a desire to truly know the people around her, Dunn has involved herself in a variety of activities, not only at school, but within her community, never limiting herself to just one.
"I think if I had stuck to one thing, I would have allowed myself to become narrow-minded in a way," Dunn said. "Not only become narrow-minded in my outlook, but in the people I come into contact with."
Diverse experience has opened the teen up to new opportunities, a better understanding of herself, and an appreciation for the people around her.
"Marshall County is not a diverse county, pretty much a lot of the people are the same around here," Dunn said. "I wanted to see as many different kinds of people and be involved with as many different kinds of people as I could. ... I think that allowed me to figure out what my beliefs were, who I was, and how to be a person that appreciated all people."
Dunn, the daughter of Tom and April Dunn, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week. Each week in the online edition and Tuesday in the print edition, The Sun features a teen selected from nominees submitted by guidance counselors throughout the region.
Near the end of the school year, one of the students profiled will be named Teen of the Year and receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be chosen for an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Dunn is involved with a number of extracurriculars at Marshall County High School and within her community, including speech team, tennis, Paducah Symphony Orchestra Youth Chorus, MCHS choir, Young Democrats, Green Dot/Change Makers, yearbook staff, a cappella group, and Teenagers Responsible for Assisting School Health.
She is a member of Benton First United Methodist Church, where she is a youth member, serves as a youth council representative, and sings on the praise band at least one Sunday a month.
Despite such heavy involvement in different activities, Dunn has excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 4.14 weighted grade-point average.
Being involved with the speech team, Dunn said, drew her out of her comfort zone, opened her mind, and had a big impact on her life.
"Speech team brought me many new challenges ranging from dealing with nerves while performing for many people all the way to learning to manage my time and involvement," Dunn said. "Although speech team was far from easy for me, I would not trade those minutes for anything. It is difficult for me to imagine going through high school without the speech team."
Being on the speech team offered her a new social exposure, Dunn said.
"I live in a small town with very strict values ingrained in most residences, so there is little exposure to people outside of these traditional values," Dunn said. "Speech team members include a majority of the LGBTQ community in my school as well as many politically involved students who hold liberal values."
While those ideals were not nonexistent to Dunn, she said there was no personal attachment to them until she joined the speech team.
"Speech team made an isolated region feel bigger," she said. "It challenged me to expand my knowledge of the world around me."
Dunn said one of her favorite involvements, Young Democrats, is difficult to sum up, simply because its influence ran into many parts of her life. "I have always valued American politics, but I struggled to find my place," she said. "That is until I started to attend Young Democrats meetings. Being in the room talking with other students expressed the importance of being involved and well informed of political matters even at a young age."
Dunn said she began to realize that the political scene influenced not just politics, but also morals, economy, and even daily life.
"There was no longer a question of where my place was in politics," she said. "My place was with all other Americans. I was a voice in a crowd of people. One voice, yes, but one voice that had the opportunity to get the crowd all chanting the same words, a voice with influence."
When Dunn turned 18, she said she proudly registered as a Democrat and because of the Young Democrats, felt as if she had the knowledge to back up her decisions in the polls and in daily political matters.
She was elected into the secretary position two years ago, and represented her peers at a rally in Frankfort against gun violence, where she was interviewed and later featured in a story on National Public Radio.
"This club gave me the ability to find my voice, and I am extremely honored to have that ability," Dunn said.
Dunn will attend Transylvania University this fall and study art history and hopes to become an art journalist, museum curator or art history teacher.
By EMILY SMITH [email protected]