When she was just 8, McHaney began pursuing her interest in drama at Market House Theatre, but when the time came for her to enroll as a freshman at McCracken County High School, she wasn't sure if she was up for such a different theater environment.
But the McCracken senior didn't let fear of the unknown stop her.
She auditioned for and was cast in her first McCracken County High School theater department production her freshman year. Since then, she has been cast in all eight of the school's shows.
"I love portraying someone that isn't me on stage," McHaney said. "It's so magical to be given a role that could be something like you, or not at all like you, or something that is made up, or someone who has lived previously. Getting to know that character and take on their characteristics is something you don't get to do in real life."
McHaney, the daughter of Jason and Kathy McHaney, 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 will receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be be chosen for an Inspiration Award and receive a $1,000 scholarship.
McHaney currently serves as president of McCracken County High School's drama club. She is a member of National Honor Society and Beta Club, an AP scholar with honor, an alumni of Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, and has maintained a 4.3 grade-point average.
Playing Wendy in the school's most recent production, "Peter/Wendy," was one of the most rewarding experiences of her time in the theater department at McCracken, McHaney said.
"It was a full-circle experience because that was the first time McCracken has done a children's theater-style show, and that's where I originally found my love for theater when I was younger," McHaney said. "I've always had a strong passion for children's theater because that's just something that I love doing. To get to do that for my senior year production was incredible."
McCracken's theater department went on to compete with their production of "Peter/Wendy" at the Kentucky Theatre Association, placing first in the regional and third in state.
McHaney also enjoyed volunteering as a Market House Theatre assistant every Saturday morning and during the summer weeks since 2012, helping children ages 3-15 through theater games, improvisational activities and performances.
"I'm able to help the kids get out of their comfort zones," McHaney said. "For the January class, we do a production and a lot of the time, it's the first show that a lot of these kids have been in before. It's been a really fulfilling experience for me, watching all these kids walk in that have never touched a stage before. They're really shy, timid, scared, but by March when they're performing the show, they are so confident and it's something they want to continue doing."
Although she said her love for theater will always be a reality in her life, McHaney has recently come upon a new talent and passion that she has not always been aware of. When auditioning to be admitted to Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, a three-week summer program for rising juniors and seniors, she auditioned for both drama and photography. But instead of getting a callback for her first love, drama, she was surprised to get a callback for photography."That entire experience was a very life-changing experience," McHaney said. "It was something that was very unexpected because I was always focused on theater. Photography was something that I always loved doing on the side, but I didn't really consider it a huge aspect of my life."
But McHaney said it was an incredible experience for her to step aside from drama and focus on something she wanted to be more confident and invested in.
"After that, I was able to take those experiences and continuously grow with them," McHaney said.
McHaney has even taken her interest in photography so far as to brand herself as "Martha's Moments" on Instagram and has taken on several senior portraits and projects this year.
"I also like to try and do creative, more abstract photos as well," she said. "I try to do a blend."
Although McHaney said she hasn't made any definite plans on where she will attend college or what she will study, she currently wants to major in documentary photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Even though she doesn't see herself pursuing a professional career in theater right now, McHaney said wherever she goes to school, she wants to continue acting for fun.