LWHS grad made top GPA her goal
KINGMAN - The race for Lee Williams High Schools' valedictorian was narrowly won, but the two students vying for the spot may never know who nudged past the finish line first.
2016 graduate Madison Ott and fellow senior Kyler Zachreson were closely tied for highest GPA and title of valedictorian. When Zachreson was interviewed in May, final exams - the deal breaker - had not been administered yet and Ott was on her senior trip.
Both were recognized for the title at graduation ceremonies May 26.
"They haven't told us who actually won because it was so close," she said. "So we were named 'co-valedictorians'."
Landing the top spot has been her goal since freshman year, and with a slew of persistence, she got it.
"I've taken every honors and advanced placement class I could," she said. "I even made sure my extracurricular activities - I was a cheerleader - didn't interfere with my GPA."
She admitted being part of the first class of LWHS students was a challenge on its own. Zachreson mentioned in his article that there were no upper classmen to look up to.
Ott plucked experiences from her freshman and sophomore years on student council to expand on that.
"The hardest thing with being a freshman at a brand new school is that you have to create your own traditions," she said. "We were creating new events and setting standards for future classes to follow. We kind of had to start from the bottom up."
Some traditions included the Volunteers' Silent Night basketball game - where the first 11 points scored are celebrated by the American Sign Language gesture for cheering (instead of vocal roars) to honor the 11 Kingman firefighters killed in the 1973 Doxol explosion - and the Kingman Firefighters vs. Police basketball game.
"We really tried to incorporate the history of the school - that we recognize the 11 firefighters killed - into all of our events."
Like any new culture, the immigration of new teachers and students from Kingman High School and Kingman Academy of Learning helped the LWHS student body discover their identity and brought a hodgepodge of new traditions, ideas and perspectives as each year passed.
"It was definitely a unique experience," Ott said. "We didn't know exactly what we were doing. But after four years, we got the hang of it."
She credited AP English teacher and National Honor Society leader Vickie MacLean as one of her most inspirational teachers.
"I saw a lot of leadership skills from her that I could learn from. I appreciated her poise and how she handled things in every situation. She was a great mentor."
The Ott family was ubiquitous in her success.
"I've had the greatest support from my parents, grandparents and entire extended family. They knew I could reach my goals before I did and they always supported me."
The support honors classes paid off.
Ott is slotted for a full-ride tuition at Arizona State University in Tempe this fall. She'll be studying biomedical engineering at Barrett - The Honors College, which specifically recruits academically outstanding undergraduates across the nation.
"I've always been interested in surgery," she said. "I would watch procedures like heart transplants and brain autopsies on the Internet in my spare time."
She also picked up on how many doctors study other fields before locking down medicine. The revelations and developments in medicine are what sparked her fascination.
"Developments in stem cell research, organ development and technology in the medical field really interested me."
Ott prescribed a dose of persistence to the younger classes: "Strive for your goals even if they seem unattainable at first."
And for good measure, she quoted wisdom from her sophomore year English teacher: "Aim for the moon and you'll fall among the stars."