MAYFIELD, Ky. - If Jessika Ellington winds up being the physical therapist she plans to be, her clients can thank a torn hamstring.
Ellington, a Graves County High School senior and cheerleader, tore her leg muscle as a freshman.
"I was a freshman at nationals," Ellington said. "I pulled my hamstring and after that I went to physical therapy. I was just amazed at how much it helped."
The same drive that helped her endure the seven-month recovery also helps her balance four years of cheerleading with a 3.6 grade-point average.
It earns her a class rank of 37 out of 325 students and the initiative to help run recycling programs at school.
And her drive partly led Ellington to Teen of the Week honors.
Ellington, daughter of Jerome and Sunny Ellington, is the Murray State University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MSU Teen of the Week selected from nominees submitted by high school guidance counselors in western Kentucky and southern Illinois. In May, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners, earning a $5,000 scholarship to Murray State. Teen of the Week is part of the Sun's Newspaper in Education program.
In class Ellington is known for being a team player, according to Laura Marrs, school counselor.
Marrs said Ellington combines ambition and determination with "being a sweetheart," traits not always found in one person. Which helps explain why she mentors freshman students, and cleans recycling bins in school set out by the science club.
Ellington said she's proud of her Junior Beta Club status, meaning her grades stayed above 94 out of 100. She hopes her academic work will get her into the University of Kentucky's physical therapy program next fall.
But she gets most excited about combining that work ethic with cheerleading. For three consecutive years she's earned a KAPOS Academic Award, meaning her grade-point average stayed above 3.5 while being a full-time cheerleading team member.
"I'm very self-motivated," Ellington said. "If I set my mind to do it, I do it."
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.