Speech team helped pull teen out of shell
When Stroup commits to something, he stays committed. He said his mother passed on a stick-to-it ethic at an early age by “making” him finish out anything he decided to try.

“If she was willing to find a way to pay for it, I had to finish it,” Stroup said. “Eventually you find something you enjoy, or in the very least, learn that you do not enjoy it and move on. Lessons are learned, and you have made new friends.”

Stroup, son of Lisa Chappell and David Stroup and a senior at Paducah Tilghman High School, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week. Each Monday, The Sun features a different teen selected from nominees submitted by school counselors across western Kentucky and southern Illinois. This spring, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners. The Teen of the Year will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

Of everything Stroup’s tried in his 17 years, his experiences with Tilghman’s speech and debate team likely affected him the most.

He joined the team because he thought he was too shy and saw the speech team as a way to yank himself out of his shell.

“It was really a way for me to develop these skills I knew I’d need in the future,” Stroup said. “Then I just had a really great time with it. It really felt like one big family.”

He was named regional champion at speech team competitions in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He’s earned National Forensic League degrees of merit, honor, excellence and distinction. He was named to the National Speech and Debate Kentucky All-State team this year as well as in 2013 and ’14, and he’s in his second year as team captain. He and his teammates also started the Tilghman Tellers, a local storytelling troupe.

This is the team’s first year without coach Martha Emmons, who retired at the end of last school year.

“She’s the one who really brought me out and kind of polished me up and showed me who I could be,” Stroup said.

When speaking of the people who have influenced him most, Stroup also mentions David Jones, his “first real mentor and drill sergeant of a track coach in middle school.” He was hard of hearing after years of working with heavy machinery, Stroup said, so you had to speak up with him, and he would speak even louder back at you. He pushed Stroup, and helped teach him how to carry himself.

Justin Hancock of Hancock’s of Paducah is another of Stroup’s biggest role models, he said. In the four-plus years that Hancock supervised Stroup, he became so much more than just a boss. He helped show the teen how to work hard and be a leader while also being kind. He’s helped inspire Stroup to want to be a business owner himself some day.

Though Stroup isn’t sure yet what kind of business he’d like to run, he knows he wants to run it in Paducah. For now, his plans are to attend a four-year Kentucky university, study sociology and marketing, and bring what he learns back home.

“I see potential in Paducah, but I also see there’s room for failure,” Stroup said. “We need to keep advancing, but in a way that we honor ourselves and keep our traditions alive. I have no idea what the future holds for (Paducah), but I hope I’m a part of it.”

Stroup is making the most of the time he still has in his hometown before he goes off to school. His goal for this year to get other kids his age more engaged in Paducah, too.

“I want to get as many kids involved as possible in our community, because that’s what the future’s going to be based on, these kids,” Stroup said. “Why not get started now?”
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