Sometimes the most worldly of life’s lessons are in your own corner of the globe.
That’s what Elizabeth “Eliza” Clark, senior at Paducah Tilghman High School, found out during a mission trip to Williamsburg, south of Lexington near the Tennessee state line.
The soccer standout (four-year varsity starter) helped repair and reorganize a resource center for the region’s homeless, and repair a house for the needy.
Unlike other mission trips Clark made to El Salvador, this one hit home, literally.
“You realized it’s not just other countries (struggling),” Clark said. “It really is right here. There’s people that need help right here.”
How much that perspective has sparked Clark’s drive in school and local organizations is difficult to measure, but something has clearly clicked with the 17-year-old.
Clark’s 3.9 grade-point average and course record ranked third in her class of 146 as of Friday. When she isn’t singing with the competitive Tilghman female a cappella group Concordia, Clark is serving as vice president of the Spanish Club and pushing for more recycling in town through the Recycling Club.
Clark, daughter of Steve and Gerri Clark, 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 throughout 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 Newspapers in Education program.
As well-rounded as Clark’s record has become, teachers can’t help but notice how the dedication and motivation she displays on the soccer pitch carries over to the classroom.
Tilghman teacher Susan Hancock taught Clark in advanced placement literature and history classes and found her to show consistency in achievement and preparation. “Eliza is always the same: Friendly, cooperative and optimistic,” Hancock said.
“Another example of her ability to be a team player, she also was on the Mock Trial team, willing to help other members perfect their parts as she perfected hers.”
Clark set the bar high when trying to match her efforts on the field while in the classroom.
She made the all-district soccer team from 2007 to 2009 and the all-region team in 2008 and 2009.
But that Clark doesn’t just delve into her sport sets her apart, according to Andrea English, Tilghman Spanish teacher.
“(Clark) has many diverse interests and it has made her a very well-rounded young adult,” English said.
Such as Clark’s three-year involvement with Kentucky Changers.
“I guess you could call it a church camp, but it’s a lot more than that,” Clark said about the group. “We worked on houses where people couldn’t afford (the repairs).”
It wasn’t fluff work either, as she helped roof houses and put up paneling.
The urge to help others may become part of Clark’s future as she plans to attend college and possibly study to become a physical therapist.
Clark is considering attending Union University, Georgetown College, Centre College or Bellarmine University.
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.