By the time career day rolled around at Jerrell's elementary school, she knew she wanted to enter the medical field — more specifically, to go to pharmacy school — and she has followed that path ever since.
"I feel like if I didn't know what I was going to be, I would be so lost," said the Heath High School student, who is now taking advanced placement calculus to prepare her for her career.
Elizabeth Jerrell, daughter of Ken and Jamie Jerrell of Kevil, 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.
Though medicine can be lucrative, Jerrell's motivation isn't money. Helping out at her parents' business, Jerell Auto Sales and Salvage, has shown her that she's happiest when working with people.
"It's hard to figure out what you want to be. I think it was just seeing that interpersonal connection between the pharmacy (staff) and the people," she said.
Jerrell's volunteer efforts at Lourdes hospital and Paducah's American Red Cross have given her experience in her chosen profession. But she says there's a deeper reason she chooses to help out.
When Jerrell first began clocking volunteer hours for the National Honor Society, of which she is the president this year, she saw it as little more than a chore. That changed her freshman year, when she met a fellow volunteer at the Lourdes information desk.
"(The volunteer) had logged over 80,000 hours in volunteer work. The 300 hours of mine seemed a little small compared to hers," Jerrell said.
Jerrell began to genuinely enjoy giving back — one of her favorite quotes is Luke 6:31, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" — and now, she says her work as a volunteer defines her.
"I feel my amount of volunteer hours show my inner leadership qualities," she said.
And Jerrell takes every chance she gets to lead by example. She serves as president of Students Against Destructive Decisions, vice president of Friends of Rachel, student council historian, and senior class treasurer — all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
"I've always been a born leader. I take pride in having a good attitude and showing a good example for other people," she said.
Jerrell said movie nights with her parents and older brother, as well as projects on her family farm, help keep the stress of school and extracurriculars at bay.
"My family has always been my support for everything I have ever done. They have always been there to pick me up when I am down, and to encourage me when things are going (well)," she said. "We just have that inner family connection."
She hopes her decision to pursue a college career — Jerrell will be a first-generation college student — will make her family proud.
"I just want to be a person like my parents, and still push to be a better person," she said.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.