Madison Dykes cheered and volunteered her way through an exceptional run at Whitwell High School, culminating with her graduating in May as valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA.
Dykes, now 18, was a sophomore the first time she won a spot on the All American Cheerleading squad. Through a rigorous Universal Cheerleading Association camp and audition process, Dykes was a sophomore the first time she was selected and traveled to London to cheer alongside about 1,000 other American cheerleaders.
"It was really a great experience, and I am so blessed to have gone," Dykes said. "Not everyone gets that opportunity and it was really special."
As a senior, Dykes duplicated the feat, earning yet another spot on the All American squad.
On top of cheerleading, school and four years of working for the school yearbook staff, Dykes has volunteered for the Children's Holocaust Memorial at Whitwell Middle School and its Paperclips Project since eighth grade.
As a tour guide and later a spokesperson, Dykes gave tours of the memorial and advocated for the project to college classes and Jewish faith camps.
"Whitwell is such a small town and everyone kind of looks and acts the same, so it's really about trying to teach tolerance and understanding," Dykes explained.
Continuing her path of high performance, Dykes plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the fall to study biology on a pre-med track, with hopes of one day becoming a doctor.
"I've always liked biology just not chemistry," she said, joking that she would rather avoid the math in chemistry. "I've thought of doing neuroscience, but I am not sure yet."
Going into college, Dykes has 28 credit hours that she earned through dual enrollment at Chattanooga State Community College while in high school.
"I guess it's because I am the only child in a military family and the three of us always stick together," Dykes said, attributing her drive to her parents. "They have always told me to be a part of something bigger than myself and pushed me to work hard and do my best."
Her success was also shepherded by two teachers that she had in both middle and high school who contributed to her success academically and otherwise.
"Coach Ben Barker was always really great and taught us about life and what it takes to succeed," Dykes said of one of the two teachers she had in eighth grade and high school. "And Ms. Julie Vincent was really great and helped us to learn biology and help us with whatever we needed."
With what little free time remained, Dykes said, she maintained a strong relationship with her core group of friends from her hometown.
"I'm really close to my group of friends, and we always tried to make time to hang out," Dykes said. "And whenever I get the chance, I try to get up to the Murfreesboro [Tennessee] area and see the friends I don't see as much anymore."
Dykes was graduated from Whitwell High on May 18.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.