Through her work with the Paducah Parks and Recreation Day Camp and Sprocket Innovation Hub, the Paducah Tilghman senior has learned her passion lies in outreach programs and volunteer activities, and she's put the passion to use.
As the head of her school's community outreach committee and having helped launch the community's new Innovation Hub, a project that serves the region in growing innovative talent in emerging industries, Bilak has a lot of experience in mentoring younger students and even those who are older than her.
"This sounds a little cliche or cheesy, but I think that's what I'm meant to do … help people," Bilak said. "It just feels right for me."
Bilak, the daughter of Monica and Paul Bilak, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Every 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 chosen for an Inspiration Award and receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Bilak is an honor student, AP Scholar, and Paducah Tilghman Student Ambassador. She is a member of the National Honor Society, student council, Youth LEAD, Future Business Leaders of America, pep club, hospitality committee, Beta Club, interact club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mock Trial team, choir and French club.
She also plays varsity soccer.
Through her work with the community outreach committee, Bilak said one of the volunteer projects she's coordinated recently has been her work with P.O.P.S., or People with Outstanding Possibilities.
"It's for developmentally disabled adults in the community," Bilak said. "Once a month, we go in, have dinner with them, do activities and just hang out. It gives their caregivers a break. Just seeing all the love they give and how happy they can be is really inspiring. They're honestly just fun to spend time with and they make you feel really good."
Bilak has also done volunteer work with Camp Joy, where she counseled a week-long camp for developmentally disabled adults, Starfish Orphan Ministry, Community Kitchen, Kids Against Hunger, Cassidy's Cause, Midtown Alliance of Neighbors, Paducah Kindness Walk and Paducah Parks and Recreation Camps.
After graduation, Bilak said she hopes to use the skills she's learned through the variety of outreach programs and volunteer activities she's participated in to make an impact on different communities worldwide.
"My whole life, my parents have traveled a lot, and when I was a baby we lived in Africa," Bilak said. "My dad is from Switzerland, so different cultures have always been a part of my life, and I've really enjoyed learning about other cultures and seeing how other people live. So I want to travel a lot."
She said her career goal is to help people in less developed countries.
Bilak will attend the University of Louisville in the fall where she plans to major in political science with a focus in international development. While she's in college, she said, she plans to partner with the university's youth outreach programs where she can continue her work mentoring young students in need.
"Although I would like to experience big city life following graduation, I hope to one day return to Paducah where I can collaborate with the Innovation Hub, a place I have watched grow from just an idea into a thriving place where students and community members of all ages come together to learn new skills and spark creativity," Bilak said.