As Poston grew up, she traded mud for clay and crayons for paintbrushes. Now, the 17-year-old constantly finds new ways to apply her love for art to her second passion: helping others.
Victoria Poston, daughter of Randy and Audrey Poston of Calvert City, is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees whom 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.
Poston launched and helped organize the first Empty Bowls Project of Marshall County last year, which raised $13,122 for Marcella's Kitchen. She said the project appealed to her because it combined artistic creation — in the form of handmade, hand-painted bowls — and a much-needed service.
"I was shocked to see how big of a need there is," Poston said.
She cited statistics from feedingamerica.org, saying that in 24 Kentucky counties, nearly 175,000 people are insecure about their food supply. Of those people, 4,580 live in Marshall County alone, Poston said.
Not content to simply research hunger, Poston experienced it for herself — three separate times — during World Vision's 30 Hour Famine, an annual fundraising and hunger awareness program. Poston and other participants engaged in community service, such as trash pickup, while fasting for 30 hours.
Poston said the lack of food started to wear on her after about 24 hours.
"I didn't expect it to be so painful, the hunger and the gnawing in my stomach, and just realizing that people experience that every day," she said.
The student said she takes inspiration from Helen Keller and her organization, Helen Keller International, which is devoted to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition.
"It was amazing to see how, even though (Keller) didn't have sight, she had a vision to help people," Poston said.
Vision, both literal and figurative, is a guiding force in Poston's life. The home-schooled student decided during her sophomore year to pursue certification as an ocularist.
Ocularists create custom prostheses for people who lose one or both of their eyes. Receiving her board certification in this competitive field will take seven to 10 years, Poston said, but she's committed to her chosen path.
"(The field) combines my favorite two subjects, art and science. With that career, I'm able to get dirty, but I'm also able to help people," Poston said.
To prepare for her career, Poston has taken courses in biology and medical terminology, among other college level-classes, through West Kentucky Community & Technical College and Murray State University. Attending an educational program offered by the American Society of Ocularists in 2011 also helped solidify her desire to become an ocularist.
"It was amazing to be able to start some of those classes in high school, and it really affirmed what I wanted to do," she said.
Poston said that being home-schooled has allowed her the flexibility she needs to stay active in her community and get a jump on her education.
"I'm not stuck in a brick and mortar school for eight hours. I'm able to get up in the morning and do school, and in the afternoon I usually go to extracurricular activities," she said.
Poston sings in the Paducah Symphony choir, serves as president for a chapter of Future Business Leaders of America, and participates in Generation Joshua, which promotes political involvement and leadership among young people. She's involved in literacy outreach through both the Marshall and McCracken County Public Libraries and has served as a page for the Kentucky House of Representatives.
In short, Poston likes to keep her calendar fully booked.
When asked what motivates her, Poston said, "I am super open, and so I love being around people and around friends. ... I'm not one to stay home."
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641 or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.