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Nina Brown, 17, discusses exam questions in her honors physics class with a classmate at Paducah Tilghman High School where she is a senior.

The Apron and the Sash

story by Nathaniel Y. Downes

Nina Brown, 17, pushes a broom across the floor shortly after closing time at Kirchhoff's Bakery on Second Street in downtown Paducah.  Nina, the student council president at Paducah Tilghman High School, has worked part-time at the bakery since she was 14. This particular week she has been chosen for the homecoming court, but goes about her regular activities despite increased responsibilities.

“This week is busier than most, but I am always busy," Nina says.

As far as high school resumes are concerned, Nina's checks most of the boxes.  Besides student council president, Nina is also the vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, the treasurer of the Pep Club, and a member of the speech and debate team, the National Honor Society and the BETA Club.  She also performs with the improv group HA! Teen Comedy Troupe, and takes guitar lessons.

Nina is excited about being on homecoming court, but says it is more fun than stress.  Unlike her other activities, Nina doesn't see it opening any doors for her.

"I might get a cool sash, but no part of who I am rests on me winning," Nina says.

Nathan Brown, Nina's father agrees. "Of all the things about Nina, (being a member of) homecoming court is least like who she is.  It happened to her instead of (being) something she lay in bed and hoped for," Nathan says.

For most members of homecoming court, preparing for the festivities and election results adds pressure to their week.  As the student council president, Nina heads the committee planning the homecoming dance, including choosing a theme, organizing ticket sales, decorating the cafeteria and cleaning up as soon as the dance is over. 

Despite homecoming, Nina still finds time to take guitar lessons, rehearse with her improv group, help her sister with homework, and practice for an honors physics class project.

When Friday arrives, Josh Murdock escorts Nina onto the field at half-time. When the queen is announced over the loudspeakers,  Nina's name is not called. If she is disappointed, it doesn't show. She says she is happy for the winner, her friend Elyria Staples.

Come Monday, Nina is back to her regular routine. On Wednesdays, she will be wearing an apron as she sweeps the floor at Kirchhoff's. Elycia will have the sash – and the crown.

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Darby Moffatt (from left), Raina Kain and Trevor Williams help Nina with homecoming ticket sales in the cafeteria of Paducah Tilghman High School. As class president, Nina is also in charge of choosing a theme and decorations for the dance and cleaning up afterwards.

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Nina talks with Isaac Galliher, Hope Hodges and James Carter, cast members of the teen comedy group HA! Teen Comedy Improv Troupe at the Market House Theatre. The group practiced twice during homecoming week, including Friday afternoon before the homecoming game.

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Nina plays with her sister, Nora, 10, in the kitchen of their Paducah home while their mother prepares dinner for the family. Choosing from all the activities she is involved in, Nina says Nora should try out for the speech and debate team when she starts high school.

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Nina has dinner with her mother, Nicole, and her father, Nathan, after a busy day at school.

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Nina adjusts her shoe at a fitting of her homecoming gown a few days before Puducah Tilghman's homecoming game. A member of the homecoming court, Nina took part in half-time festivities at Friday night's game.

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Nina and her escort, Josh Murdock wait on the Paducah Tilghman football field for the homecoming queen and king results to be announced during half-time of the game. Neither was crowned.

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Nina, encircled by her friends, dances at the Paducah Tilghman homecoming dance, which she was in charge of planning. She also helped clean up afterwards.