Cara Wilson loves horses, and has ever since she first interacted with them in second grade on her family's farm.
The 18-year-old Paducah Tilghman High School senior also has a passion for academics, and the intellect to back it up.
Wilson ranks first academically out of 169 seniors this year. It's when the strawberry blond Paducahan combines her love with her considerable know-how that she becomes the exemplary student, and person.
"We began (the Equestrian Club) four years ago when I was a freshman," Wilson said. This year Wilson helped involve the school's special education classes with horses for therapeutic and educational purposes. "They were able to brush, and hopefully they'll end up riding by the end of the year," Wilson said.
It's that kind of compassion that helped designate Wilson as Teen of the Week.
Wilson, daughter of Ronald and Cinda Wilson, 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.
Those around Wilson notice the combination of meticulously perfect grades, and strong character.
"There was never any need to motivate Cara," said Susan Hancock, English teacher at Paducah Tilghman High School.
"She drives herself much harder than any teacher could."
It was a week-long field trip that showed Hancock the personality that goes with the intellect. "I observed her to be friendly and helpful to all," Hancock said. "She is a young lady of integrity, as well as talent."
That Wilson can spend so much time in musical productions, French Club, National Honors Society and more impresses Arthur DeWeese, the school's choral director.
"She has been able to maintain this very rigorous course schedule and still be extremely involved in school life," DeWeese said. Wilson's cultivated ability to push herself is what makes her the perfect example of an honors student, DeWeese said. Wilson doesn't just sing in productions of musicals "Tzeitel" and "Fiddler on the Roof," but she takes private voice lessons from Kay Gardner Bates, a retired voice professor at Murray State University.
With her head still very much into advanced classes this year, Wilson said she's considering attending Union University in Jackson, Tenn., to study medicine or maybe history.
Her interests in writing and performing may take her in a different direction, but she said she's prepared for anything.
And if you can't find her with her nose in a book, look for the nearest horse.
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.