The Paducah Tilghman High School senior said the subjects provide her with insight into today's problems, as well as a way of understanding other people.
Miller said a quote from her favorite author, John Green — "There is no them, there are only facets of us" — speaks to the importance of understanding the past.
"I think that's probably the most important thing to remember," she said of the quote. "That's why I like history and literature, because it gives you a sense of empathy."
Catherine Miller, daughter of Bobby and Laurie Miller, 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.
As president of Tilghman's chapter of the National Honor Society, Miller has no trouble finding ways to apply this sense of empathy to real life. The club engages regularly in service activities, such as responding to Clark Elementary School students' letters to Santa and ringing bells for the Salvation Army.
Miller said she participated in the most rewarding project last summer at the Governor's Scholars Program, where she built a house for Somalian refugees through Habitat for Humanity.
"We built it in four weeks, and it usually takes two to three months to build a house. It was amazing," she said.
Miller noted that her favorite aspect of history is being able to see how trends in the past apply to the present, and even the future.
"I really like that cause and effect, how you can ... see how one person or one action can change the world, literally," she said.
Being able to identify these trends helps Miller academically, particularly when she competes with the school's Future Problem Solving Team.
But Miller shows that the broad perspective she's gained from her studies is useful outside the realm of tests and grades.
Miller takes time out of her afternoon every Friday to help gather bottles and papers for Tilghman's recycling club. Although she said carrying the materials can be difficult — most of the club members are fairly small girls — she knows that caring for the earth matters.
"We need to take care of the planet, so that our future generations can experience the same world we have, or a better one," she said.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.