Spend just a few minutes with Plowden, 16, and it is not difficult to figure out why.
“She is also very humble in spite of her many achievements,” Menard said.
Of those, there are many. Plowden holds a 3.8 GPA, is a drummer in the school band, a member of the Beta Club and her voice greets AHS students each morning as she is the Voice of the Wildcat.
She’s also a national champion.
Plowden earned that major honor after she competed in the national speech tournament. The Grand National Tournament, played host to by the National Catholic Forensic League on May 26-27, took place in Baltimore, Md. There were over 2300 competitors.
She remained humble when students, faculty and family welcomed her home Thursday, two trophies in tow.
“I feel like this is a big blessing,” Plowden said. “The whole time I was there, I was saying my prayers.”
Plowden also carried with her an enormous amount of inspiration.
“My inspiration was really my little sister,” Plowden said of Asia, 13, who was born with Downs Syndrome. “I love my little sister so much. I had my family (including parents Marc and Yolanda Plowden) on my mind.
“Most of all, I had God and my little sister on my mind.”
Plowden performed “The Gift of Tongues” by Tyler Freeman.
“This whole piece, I looked at it as giving a message,” Plowden said of the piece about a girl with special needs. “I didn’t think I was going to make it that far. I just wanted to show people this piece because it really touches me and it touches a lot of people.
“When I perform it, it comes from the heart.”
It definitely produced a few tears, mostly Plowden’s own.
“I just started crying,” Plowden said. “I balled and I couldn’t take it anymore. People were looking at me like something was wrong. I had to tell them that I was OK. At the tournament I took all of that emotion and I wanted to display it. I wanted people to feel what I felt. I wanted them to know that all the special needs children are beautiful.
“They are beautiful people with beautiful hearts and souls. I really wanted to give that message.”
Plowden competed in the Dramatic Performance category, one that featured 226 competitors. Plowden took home the James F. S. Lyness Award for placing first in drama. For Abbeville speech coach, Amy Thompson, Plowden’s journey certainly featured plenty of drama. That journey included making the top 48, then 24, 12, 6, all the way down to the final three.
“I was like, she is going to win this,” Thompson said. “I never dreamed of it because it was such a large tournament. Just to compete is an honor. To have the number one student in the nation is kind of overwhelming.
“We are very proud of her.”
Abbeville Principal Ivy Landry agreed.
“To be the best of the best in the United States,” Landry said, “it’s beyond words.
“We’ve got a national champion and it makes people proud to be a Wildcat.”
Plowden is proud of that fact.
“This is important to me,” Plowden said. “Everything that I do in school, I feel like I am representing my school and I have to do a great job.
“I don’t want to fail them.”
Landry said Abbeville is definitely proud to have Plowden for two more years. He said whatever she does when she leaves the school’s halls, she will be a success.
She certainly has big plans, beyond wanting to be an attorney.
“My mom said something and it stuck in my head,” Plowden explained. “It’s big dreaming, but if I become an attorney, I can then become a judge. Then, and I know this is out of the park, one day I would really like to try to become a Supreme Court Justice.”
While that seat is being kept warm for her, Plowden will simply spend this summer being a typical teenager.
“I like to sleep, eat, dance and listen to music,” Plowden said of her interests.
Plowden admitted she will try to find a moment to take a deep breath. It will be one well earned.
“I feel so blessed and thankful that I was able to do all of this,” Plowden said.