For those that know her, Belt's compassionate reaction to her brother's situation wouldn't come as a surprise. The Paducah Tilghman High School senior says that while she may be rough around the edges, she's soft on the inside.
"I'm the kind of person that would sacrifice anything that I'm doing to help someone else. And that's what I love. The best part of my day is if I can make someone else smile, rather than myself," she said.
McKenzi Belt, daughter of David and Abbey Belt and Tim and Crystal Capps, is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees who 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. The Teen of the Year is eligible for a full four-year scholarship to Mid-Continent University or a cash award of $2,500, paid through the Paducah Sun, if the student selects another college to attend.
A glance at Belt's service hours proves her love for helping others is sincere. She's racked up 95 hours working at Starfish Orphan Ministry, not counting the mission trips she's taken to Honduras and El Salvador. She's worked blood drives through the student council and spent every Saturday morning in November participating in the Tornado in Training program, which teaches basketball skills to children.
"The main part of everything I've been involved in has been the idea of service. That's where my heart is," she said.
But Belt's commitment to volunteering doesn't preclude her from pursuing her other passions, particularly sports. She's played four years of varsity soccer as a starting keeper, earning several awards, and served as captain in 2012. She also played two years of varsity basketball, but had to give it up due to scheduling issues.
"Sports is an outlet for me, for sure. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I can go play a pickup game with my brother," she said.
And considering Belt's rigorous academic schedule this semester, it's no surprise that she needs an outlet from time to time. She's taking several advanced placement classes this year — calculus and biology are her favorites — and has maintained a weighted 4.0 grade-point average throughout high school.
Belt said she also keeps herself balanced by spending time with her large family.
Though her parents' divorce was difficult at first, Belt recognizes the value of having her two brothers, four sisters, and her parents and step-parents to support her.
"It's something that has really ended up helping me more than hurting me. ... I get so much more love put on me when I'm hurting, which is great," she said.
Belt also credits her family with pushing her to become the person she is.
"They've really made me independent. They put so much responsibility on me, and I think it's hard at times, but it pays off, because I can do anything on my own," she said.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.