Paducah Tilghman High School senior Paige Lauren Kight’s passion for marine biology is obvious when you talk to her, whether it’s about the ocean sunfish, doing research or another issue.
“I’ve always been interested in science,” she said. “I’ve had fantastic science teachers my entire time in school.”
In particular, Kight recalled she had Christine Wynne as her pre-AP biology teacher when she got to ninth grade, and later for AP biology when she was a junior. The biology teacher, who has since retired, made Kight fall in love with the subject and “want it as a career choice.”
“I discovered how much I loved fish and the ocean, and so I knew that’s where I wanted to be, and then I kind of narrowed it from there, kind of learning about all of the threats that face oceans.”
Kight used the ocean sunfish as an example, which is her “absolute favorite” fish. It’s vulnerable to different threats to the oceans, such as overfishing, and plastic bags. The bags can resemble jellyfish, which are a big part of their diet.
The 17-year-old student plans to study biology after high school, and she’s particularly interested in marine biology, conservation and research. She’s closely looking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Haverford College, which is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania, as two college options.
She has already taken part in programs related to scientific research. As a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholar, Kight completed a virtual independent research mentorship this summer through the University of Connecticut.
“I actually studied deep-sea genomics through three weeks, and I did a research project on the symbiotic relationship between a deep-sea tubeworm and a bacteria that lives inside its digestive tract” she said.
Kight, daughter of Robert and Kelly Kight of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
It’s her ability to sew that helped lead to one of her service projects, where Kight sewed more than 400 cloth face masks to be donated to schools, ministries and others, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kight said she’s been quilting since second grade, when she started participating in quilt camp at the National Quilt Museum. She wanted to give back, and this was “one of the most direct ways” she could it.
“I realized how easy it is to make a difference based on something you can already do, and how something small can make a really big difference in a (community). I see people walking around using masks that I’ve made, and I know that I’m helping someone, and that’s a reward all in itself,” she said.
For senior year, Kight said her goal is “honestly to have fun with it.” She wants to balance work and her ambitions with making memories and immersing herself in the community, since she plans to go away for college.
By: Kelly Farrell