BY KELLY FARRELL
McCracken County High School senior Morgan Guess, who’s been a local advocate through the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Year.
On Monday, a five-person selection committee from The Paducah Sun named Guess as its choice out of 32 high school seniors, who were recognized as Teen of the Week honorees during the 2020- 21 school year. She will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
Guess, 18, said she was surprised and excited by the honor. She’s the daughter of Craig and Susan Guess, of Paducah.
“I’m so grateful for this award and what it means,” she told The Sun.
“I really owe it all to this community. For the past 10 years, it’s been a journey of mine, standing up for anti-bullying and mental health issues, and it’s the community that joined me and joined that conversation and helped me bring change.”
This year, more than 75 high school seniors from 11 area public and private schools were nominated for Teen of the Week consideration. It’s a competitive program each year. Another senior, Jake Taylor of Paducah Tilghman High School, was named the Inspiration Award winner. He will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
“For many teenagers there’s this long-term ‘What should I do with my life?’ question. Every year, as I read the Teen of the Week features, I find young men and women who have put themselves in the position to answer that question with resounding success,” The Sun’s publisher, Bill Evans, said.
Evans noted it’s always a difficult task in choosing the Teen of the Year.
“There was much discussion in our board room as the editorial team reviewed each student’s merits,” he said.
“Our selection of Morgan Guess came about due to the range of her work in the classroom, in her community and around the commonwealth. She has a passionate anti-bullying message that has effected real change in her and those around her.”
In his remarks, Paducah Bank CEO Joe Framptom said the bank is proud to support the program, as it continues to celebrate the achievements of outstanding high school seniors for the seventh consecutive year.
“It is our hope that the youth of our community will be inspired to excel as they learn about the accomplishments of the 32 Teen of the Week winners,” he said. “While only one can be chosen as Teen of the Year and only one can receive the Inspiration Award, all 32 are winners in their own right.”
Framptom said Guess showed “great wisdom and maturity” at an early age.
“As the victim of bullying at only 8 years old, she could have chosen to ignore her problems or to blame others for her misfortune,” he added. “She instead chose positive change, which she has tirelessly worked toward through the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation ever since.”
At McCracken County, Guess has earned a 4.358 weighted grade-point average and 4.0 unweighted GPA. She’s on track to be one of the class’s valedictorians. She’s participated in many school activities, including National Honor Society, Pep Club and Mustangs on a Mission, in addition to her efforts through the anti-bullying foundation, which she co-founded in 2011.
The foundation has been a force behind various local projects and initiatives, such as kindness murals and annual kindness color walks, and lobbying for legislation to define bullying in Kentucky, among other work.
“I definitely want to continue the work wherever I end up, but I think Paducah-wise, we have a lot coming up,” she said on the foundation.
“In the next year, the Kentucky ‘Be Kind’ official license plate is coming out in 2022, and that will raise about $1.7 million to the 16 youth mental health drop-in centers, if only 10% of (vehicles get) that license plate. So, we have a lot ahead — where we can continue to help the things that we’ve star ted in the community, and all across the state.”
As for college, Guess is considering four choices: Duke University; the University of California, Los Angeles; Columbia University; and the University of Louisville. She’s interested in studying international relations or public policy, mathematics and perhaps minoring in a foreign language.
Her career goal is to become a diplomat one day, which she said she thinks is a combination of everything that she’s always wanted to do.
“I’ve gone through all these different careers over the past four years,” Guess said.
“I started my freshman year wanting to become a doctor, actually. I’ve always had that love for helping people. It’s something that I’ve been so passionate about and it has been a part of every single step of my life, and I think that’s what’s made me who I am.”