Dortch, 18, is set to attend the University of Louisville, and aims to major in sociology and minor in political science. She said she wants to study American Sign Language while in college, explaining that she’s deaf in one ear.
“I kind of grew up knowing the possibility that I could go deaf before most people do. Like, older people (may) go deaf late in life, but I have a stronger possibility of losing hearing in my right ear as well, and I also think that it’s really important that people know ASL,” she said.
As an example, Dortch said she didn’t realize until recently that people who are deaf may experience challenges when calling the police.
“There’s so many things that you don’t even think about that impact other people’s lives,” she said. “If I can learn something that can help me communicate with people, then that’s kind of why I want to study that.”
If she decides on law, Dortch is interested in being a civil rights attorney, and advocacy is also of interest for her, such as LGBTQ and women’s rights and gun control.
She’s been involved with the Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky organization, which she describes as a group of people trying to ban the practice that’s still legal in some parts of Kentucky.
“Whenever I was growing up, around me, a lot of people were very traditional,” Dortch said, regarding advocacy.
“They weren’t really open to new ideas, and being gay myself and a woman, I see injustices that people face and I see injustice that I face. I just think that you can’t wait for other people to speak for you. You have to be loud or else people aren’t going to listen to you, and I want to be part of the reason that the world becomes more accepting of people.”
Dortch, daughter of Jenny Griffin and Trip Dortch, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Tuesday, The Sun publishes profile stories on area high school seniors chosen from a group of nominees for Teen of the Week recognition. Around the end of the school year, a committee will name one of these students as Paducah Bank Teen of the Year, which carries a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive the Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
At Paducah Tilghman, Dortch has earned a weighted cumulative GPA above 4.0. She is a National Honor Society member and GSP alumna. She is involved with the theatre department, choir and Concordia, the school’s female a cappella group. Dortch also works part-time, and was selected as a Paducah Bank Teen Ambassador and for the Paducah Pathfinders program.
She’s participated in a variety of things at different times in high school, such as tennis in freshman year, the mock trial team when she was a junior, and the school’s concert band and the Marching Band of Blue, among other activities.
The school’s “West Side Story” production was one of the best experiences of her time there, Dortch said. She portrayed the character of Snowboy, and had parts in “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Little Shop of Horrors” productions.
“Whenever I was a younger kid, and saw the people on stage, I felt like they were famous, you know? And I wanted to do that, so whenever I actually got (to Tilghman), I knew that I wanted to be in the musicals and be involved with acting,” Dortch said.
“I really love the community of people, like the majority of my friends that I have now, I met through either the band, choir, or theatre department at Tilghman. Everyone there is so supportive, and it really does build a community there.”
Dortch said she doesn’t feel “old enough to be a senior,” but it’s starting to feel a little normal now and she’s grateful the school is doing four-day in-person weeks. She’s excited about going to college in Louisville, while she feels both ready and not ready to graduate.
“I don’t feel like I’m done with high school yet, but I almost am,” she said.