"It's been very exciting," Smith said of her collegiate tour. "A little overwhelming because every school's telling me a lot of different information. They've all been wonderful so far. A lot of them have a lot of what I'm looking for. It's going to make my decision very difficult, come time to choose."
The Paducah Tilghman High School senior will study theater in college. She hopes to find a theater education program so she can share what she so loves with future generations. It's a natural draw for Emmons-Smith to go from student back into the classroom as teacher. Since kindergarten, she's loved school. Whether she's competing with the speech team, working on the school newspaper or leading cheers at a football game, swathed in Tilghman blue, Emmons-Smith's school spirit is infectious.
"I could spend the rest of this interview talking about how much I absolutely love Tilghman," Emmons-Smith said. "And going to a school I love so much helps me to be involved."
Emmons-Smith said she's attracted to schools with strong athletic programs, because it's something she's grown accustomed to. She doesn't just cheer from the sidelines, either. The 17-year-old has run track and cross country since sixth-grade. That's on top of performances in more than 20 plays at Market House Theatre.
Chandler Emmons-Smith, daughter of Hutch Smith and Martha Emmons, is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees that high school guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois submit to the Sun. Mid-Continent University will provide each Teen of the Week with a $2,500 annual scholarship to its university, which is renewable for four years. In the spring, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners and will receive a full four-year scholarship to Mid-Continent University, currently valued at up to $55,000, or a cash reward of $2,500 paid through the Paducah Sun if the student selects another college to attend.
Emmons-Smith loves theater, and she embraces a sometimes overlooked form of the performance art. She's been involved in storytelling for quite a while. She started when her piano teacher, Retta Folsom, needed help with her work at the McCracken County Library. After one performance, Emmons-Smith was hooked.
"It's something that I really love doing because you can really connect with your audience," she said.
She participated in both the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts and the Kentucky Governor's Scholar Programs. Her studies and interests go beyond state and country lines, however.
Last year, Emmons-Smith welcomed a kind of adopted brother to her home. Her family hosted a Spanish exchange student, and they've previously hosted students from Costa Rica and Taiwan. Learning from the students about language and culture, Emmons-Smith said, was a supreme highlight from the experience. She's also done her share of international travel to England, Wales, France, Mexico and Costa Rica.
As she looks forward to her collegiate career, Emmons-Smith has many goals and aspirations. Until she makes her final decision, she'll be sporting Tilghman blue at every school event she can attend.