Jayde McDonald and Kayla Koon have been named the valedictorian and salutatorian for Myrtle Attendance Center’s Class of 2020.

In addition to being named the valedictorian, McDonald has also served three years on student council, including secretary during her sophomore year, vice president during her junior year and president her senior year. She was also class president during her junior year and vice president during her senior year. Additionally, McDonald served in the Junior Beta Club for two years and Beta Club for four years, including as president of the club this year, as well as member of the Anchor Club for two years, the Union County Leadership Academy during her junior year and Future Business Leaders of America for two years. She also played varsity basketball for three years.

McDonald has also received other honors, including two science subject awards and two English subject awards. She has also been on the Special honor roll for 11 years.

In her spare time, McDonald said she enjoys painting and drawing and really loves to read and write.

“Other things that I have found enjoyment in recently are learning to cook and going fishing,” she said.

McDonald offered advice to both the underclassmen and her fellow graduates at Myrtle.

“To the underclassmen – Keep your focus,” McDonald said. “No matter how bad things are going in life, leave it at the door when you walk into a classroom because what you do sitting in your desk can determine what your life will be like in 10 years. Also, doing things that you don’t want to do makes you a better person. Do your homework and go to class.”

To her fellow seniors, McDonald said that while none of them deserved to have their senior year to be shortened like it has been, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they can all learn and grow from the experience.

“I think more than anything that this has made us expand our horizons and realize that even though it is our senior and our moment to shine, it’s not always all about us,” she said. “We learned this lesson early and I believe that is a good quality to have and will mold us into better people in the future.”

McDonald said she plans to attend Northeast Mississippi Community College in the fall, finish her prerequisites there and then transfer to Mississippi State University to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.

McDonald thanked her mom and dad, John and Scottie McDonald, and her brother Jacob for supporting her and pushing her to become the person she is, both academically and spiritually. She also thanked her aunt, Samantha Harper, for being a second mom and a mentor for the past year after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Koon is this year’s salutatorian for Myrtle, as well as the school’s STAR student for 2020. She has also obtained many subject area awards, including biology 1 in the 9th grade, geometry in the 11th grade and others. She obtained a Gold level in the ACT Work Keys test and was also awarded the community service award in 11th grade for service hours in the Anchor Club. She is a Special Honors graduate and has been awarded an ACT scholarship through Northeast Mississippi Community College.

Koon is president of the Anchor Club and assistant to the sponsor of the Senior Beta chapter. She was part of the Union County theater production during her 10th grade year.

Outside of school, Koon said she enjoys reading and writing the occasional short story during a bout of creativity.

“I I usually spend a lot of my free time at work, which leads to less of the more time-consuming hobbies,” Koon said. “I am proud to say I’ve held a job for two years straight almost, and have obtained a manager position while still in high school.”

Koon offered a few words of advice to her fellow seniors and underclassmen as well.

“Keep your head up and smile,” Koon said to her fellow seniors. “Everything seems gloomy now, but it will get better once this all starts to die down. Remember to get everything settled so that when August comes, we can all rock and roll into being freshmen again. Thank you for being there for me throughout the years. I hope each one of you make it to great heights and go the distance that you’ve always dreamed of going. Let’s take this next step with pride and show them what it means to be the class of 2020.”

To the underclassmen, Koon said “please remember that a bad day never means a bad year. Find the good in the drama and let the rest fall away. Study hard and continue to treat everyday as though it was the last, because you never know what might happen. Make memories with your friends, with your classmates and with your teachers. Never be afraid to take chances, because with chances come opportunities, but only if you take the first step.”

Koon said she plans to attend Northeast Mississippi Community College in the fall on a currently undecided major.

Koon is the daughter of James and Billie Koon and has a sister, Payton Koon and one brother, Christopher Koon. Her grandparents are Joan Berry, James Knighton and Milton and Diane Koon. Other relatives include Denise, Donald and Jamie Tallent and Hunter Berry. She also gave special recognition to her best friend, Brianna Lepard.

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