RUMFORD — Erin Milligan and McKenzie Paterson are co-presidents of the Student Council, National Honor Society members and good friends. They have taken turns being the top student in their class ever since they were freshman at Mountain Valley High School.
Now, about to graduate on June 2, Erin is the valedictorian and McKenzie is the salutatorian. Both are excitedly looking forward to their college years.
Becoming the top students in the school has required dedication and persistence, and a willingness to stay after school to participate in myriad activities. Both Rumford girls also believe time management is crucial to their ability to balance academics with leading a life that includes working part time and hanging out with friends, sometimes.
“I grew up with the philosophy that you don’t quit. You put your whole self into it,” Erin said. “I’ve never gone into anything half-heartedly.”
Sometimes, in order to keep on track, a person has to make sacrifices, such as not seeing friends as often as one would like, she added.
“Time management is so important,” Erin said.
McKenzie said she plans everything.
“We’ve learned responsibility. We know how to manage our time,” she said.
McKenzie plans to enter Syracuse University in the fall with a major in international relations that could lead to graduate school in law.
“I want to focus on human rights,” she said. She is considering joining the Peace Corps either half way through college, or after she graduates from college.
Choosing Syracuse University was planned, too. Not only will it give her a chance to learn to live independently, but also, she has family and friends in the area.
She credits young humanitarian Samantha Smith with much of her desire to work in human rights. She did a project in fourth-grade on the young Maine girl who tried to get the Untied States and former Soviet Union to talk to each other and to make peace.
“She was so young and so influential at such a young age. She was about my age when I did the project,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie is captain of three sports this year. Participating in sports activities helps her relieve her stress, she said.
Erin has a love of dance, and has been taking lessons and performing since she was 3 years old. Dancing is one concrete way she can relieve stress, she said.
She plans to attend Bates College in the fall.
Although she hasn’t decided yet what she will major in, she likes languages and wants to study abroad at some point in her college career.
She credits her work ethic and ability to manage time for her success so far.
She attended Holy Savior School from kindergarten to grade eight.
“I was always top of my class. Everyone told me I was going to be the valedictorian. My mom would never have to tell me to do my homework. I did it, then could do other things,” she said. “I always wanted to go to a really good college.”
Erin said she sometimes gets frustrated because she knows students who are so smart, but don’t do their work. She also sees many students who get wrapped up in parties or social drama.
Both girls suggest that those who want to go to college to always have backup schools, and to not get stressed out about the college they plan to attend.
Erin is the daughter of Sherry Milligan and the late Michael Milligan.
McKenzie is the daughter of Eddie Paterson and Diane Paterson. She has two younger sisters and an older sister, Chelsea, who was also salutatorian at Mountain Valley several years ago.