Ann Wu is a student who meets every goal she sets for herself, and she just hit another benchmark - being named Teen of the Week.
The McCracken County High School senior, who previously attended Heath High School, hit her stride in fifth grade and hasn't looked back. Wu said she was a shy child until a lead role in a school production brought her out of the shadows and into the limelight.
"Once I was in the musical, I just got out more and became the high-spirited individual that I am today," she said. "I got more involved and stepped out of my shadow."
Wu, who earned B's and C's through her younger years, has received straight A's since eighth-grade and currently ranks first in her class of more than 400 students. She lists art as her favorite class but also enjoys the sciences.
She describes herself in simple, accurate terms as "an optimistic, hard-working, goal-oriented person."
Wu, daughter of Frankie Wu and Hui Ling Lin, is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois submitted 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. The Teen of the Year is eligible for a full four-year scholarship to Mid-Continent or a cash award of $2,500, paid through the Paducah Sun, if the student selects another college to attend.
A first-generation Asian-American, Wu originally hailed from a small village in China. She has embraced her new culture and strives to lead by example in the classroom, in the art studio and working with younger generations through one of many community service organizations.
Wu, currently in her fourth year of studio art, said her love of art began at a young age when the only child would create characters using several artistic mediums. She also took nine years of jazz, ballet and hip hop dance classes and participated in the Governor's School for the Arts at Transylvania University in Lexington last summer.
She spends much of her free time volunteering and tutoring for the local chapter of the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club. Wu also has given her time sorting items at the Greater Paducah Sustainability Project Recycling Center and with Groceries for Good, The Salvation Army, Toys of Tots, Christmas in the Park, the Merryman House and peer tutoring.
"I enjoy teaching and seeing the kids get more involved and interested, once you show them you are interested in helping," she said.
Wu currently serves as the environmental club president, and is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and Rotary Club. She participated in Poetry Outloud and the spring musical this year. She also completed the Youth Leadership Education and Development program during her junior year.
She plans to attend the University of Kentucky in Lexington and has received the GSA presidential scholarship, which will cover the cost of her tuition and expenses. Wu plans to be on the pre-med track and continue to medical school in the hopes of becoming a dermatologist, but she also plans to keep her love of art as a hobby forever.
"It (dermatology) is a way to help people naturally improve themselves and give them confidence, which is the number one key to success," she said.
The multi-faceted student also plans to continue her love of serving the community through her college days and hopes to volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club and other non-profit health care organizations. Long-term, she would like to open her own practice and help provide health care to those in need through local, regional and national non-profits.
Wu said she has enjoyed her limited time bonding with new friends and former rivals at McCracken County High School. She lists her favorite high school moment as being named the first ever McCracken County High School football homecoming queen.
"It was such an honor," she said. "In one year, I've made so many new friendships but I'm ready for the next challenge."
Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.
Teen of the Week
n Nominations are accepted only from guidance counselors.
n If you are interested in the scholarship program, contact your guidance counselor.
n Nominations are reviewed by The Paducah Sun.
n For questions contact Kendra Mitchell at 270-575-8625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.