MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Right before graduation day, Kelly Bates got the surprise of a lifetime.
“Whenever I found out that I received it, I was sitting in the parking lot of Cane’s. I checked and I freaked out saying that this cannot be real,” explained Kelly Bates a 2017 Presidential Scholar.
The West Lauderdale High School graduate was named a Presidential Scholar, chosen out of thousands nominated from across the nation.
“You always hear about it but it’s never you and so at this point I was like this is me and I didn’t know how to handle it,” said Bates. “I really don’t think it has hit me yet that it has happened.”
Bates was a valedictorian of her class, made a 35 on her ACT, worked and even volunteered her time.
“She does not want to be in the spotlight and she wants everyone else to succeed and I think personally that is what makes her successful because she cares about everyone else,” said Sandy Reid the Assistant Principal at West Lauderdale High School.
Bates credits the support of her parents, teachers and friends, for helping her get to where she is now.
“I feel like we are all put on this earth to help one another and if you are not helping somebody then, ‘What are you doing?’ kind of thing,” said Bates. “So I feel like I want to help as many people as possible in the short time that I am going to be here.”
In the end, Bates explains that the hard work and not settling for anything but the best helped her get this honor and she has this advice for other students.
“Who you are is not defined by what ACT or GPA score you had, or who your parents were or how much they made,” said Bates. “You are your own person and you can choose to be whoever you want to be.”
Bates will now travel to Washington D.C. in June to be awarded the Presidential Scholar medal at a White House sponsored event.
This fall she plans on attending The University of Mississippi and major in Bio-medical Engineering.