By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
The 2016 Morgan County High School (MCHS) valedictorian and salutatorian were announced this week. Dana Hicky earned the top academic achievement of valedictorian and Elizabeth Cagle earned the second highest academic honor of salutatorian. “Both of these young ladies have excelled academically while being involved in other ways in the school,” said Jim Malanowski, principal of MCHS. “We’re all extremely proud of their accomplishments.” Dana, 18, was uncertain that she’d earn the top spot and Elizabeth didn’t even think she was in the running. “I knew I was close to the top, but all the numbers were so close,” said Dana. “I wasn’t sure I’d be the one to make it.” “Well, I almost had a heart attack when they called my name,” said Elizabeth. “I was in complete shock.” Malanowski raved about the girls and their well-rounded personalities. “Dana is not just a very bright person with a serious work ethic, she is a gifted artist. When you add in the fact that she’s a member of the cross country team, you get a sense for her breadth and her energy level,” said Malanowksi. “Elizabeth Cagle is quiet and unassuming, but you know that she is always ‘cooking’ on something. She was a contributor to the Band, Academic Bowl, and the Reading Bowl Team.”
Both girls’ parents were overjoyed to learn of their daughters’ achievements. “I am proud that we raised Dana to always do her best and that her best is always good enough. Becoming valedictorian was just the byproduct of all her hard work,” said Bonnie Hicky, Dana’s mother. “Obviously we are proud,” said Stratton Hicky, Dana’s father. “I have tried to instill in both my girls that as you make decisions in life make sure you are not closing doors ahead of you. It means getting involved in the right things and not getting involved in things that may get you in trouble. The combination of teaching her to always doing your best and making sure she always tried to keep doors open and looking for opportunities made her a competitive candidate to become valedictorian.” “We are just very proud parents. She is an amazing daughter. “ said Donna Cagle, Elizabeth’s mother. “We are very proud of her and we feel very blessed to have her as our daughter,” said Alan Cagle, Elizabeth’s father. “She has her priorities in order, in her faith and in her family.”
Dana, who has been accepted into Georgia Tech, is carrying on a family tradition, as her sister also earned valedictorian at MCHS in 2013. “Since my sister already achieved this accomplishment, it was nice to get it too. I didn’t set out to become valedictorian, but I worked hard and it just happened that way… I like to work hard and I always liked to learn. I work hard to learn something new. Being valedictorian wasn’t so I could be at the top, but that’s how it happened because I just wanted to learn.” Dana is torn between studying anthropology or international relations. During her time at MCHS, she most enjoyed studying history and environmental science. One MCHS science teacher, Maryann Dartnell, inspired Dana to pursue a future career that is both challenging and altruistic. “She taught all of us how we connect to the real world and how we can have an actual impact,” said Dana. “It just made me feel like I can actually cause change. She taught me to help make the world a better place.” Dana is also passionate about advocating for gender equality and ensuring women across the world have access to education and other vital resources. She hopes whatever work she finds herself doing that it entails traveling across the globes and leaves her some free time to paint. Elizabeth, 18, who was also named MCHS’s STAR Student earlier this year, will be attending to the University of Georgia next fall and earned the Bernard Ramsey Scholarship to help with the cost of tuition and travel. She plans to major in biochemistry and genetics. “I ultimately want to do medical research on genetic mutations. A lot of diseases are caused by things like that,” said Elizabeth. “Really random things that occur because of genetic mutations can be hard to treat because they are so random. I want to work with DNA and find ways to fix things like that.” Elizabeth is also interested in working with animals on a wild life preserve one day, too. “I would really like to work with the DNA of animals and working on breeding endangered species.”
Both Dana and Elizabeth will give speeches at this year’s graduation ceremony in May. They are both nervous, but hope to impart some inspiration and encouragement to their fellow classmates as they all enter into the next chapter of their lives. Whatever wise words they come up with, their academic achievements are already a shining example and inspiration to the rest of their peers.