Samantha Jones knows a thing or two about pressure.
Not just the pressures of maintaining a sky-high grade-point average, juggling extracurricular activities and choosing a college to attend next year.
But nationally televised, competitive pressure that comes with a championship cheerleading squad.
"It's crazy when the ESPN cameras are there," said Jones, who is a senior this year at Reidland High School. "You're standing there getting ready (to perform) and then this camera comes whooshing down by you."
Jones referred to her school's cheerleading team that competes on national and state levels and was featured on ESPN and ESPN2.
Jones' academic and service records match the prominence, if not the publicity, of her cheerleading exploits, which makes her Teen of the Week.
Jones, daughter of Vicki L. Thomas, 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 in 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 Newspaper in Education program.
Time in the television spotlight may have helped Jones deliver one of her most difficult performances, one reflective of her service record: reading a poem she wrote about her father at a Relay For Life event. Jones' dad, John Jones, died from colon cancer six years ago. "It was a very emotional thing," Jones said. "But it made me a stronger person." It made her cheerleader team stronger, too.
"Her involvement in Relay For Life has prompted the cheerleading team at Reidland to get involved for two years also," said Jennifer McKenzie, cheerleading coach.
When Jones hasn't been blazing a trail of service for the American Cancer Society, she's maintained a 3.75 grade-point average in the school's toughest classes.
She is 90 percent sure she wants to attend Murray State University next year to study to become a teacher, and pursue her favorite subject, math. And no matter what she does, she's likely to lead, according to her teachers. "Samantha never settled for anything less than total commitment in every aspect of class," said Kathy Thomis, Reidland teacher. "I could count on her to be a leader."
"She "'goes the extra mile,'" said Barbara Williams, Jones' guidance counselor. Be them metaphorical in the classroom, or real at American Cancer Society events.
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.