Union High School announces top 10 seniors

Dowagiac Union High School recently announced the top 10 students of the upcoming graduating class. Pictured, front row, from left:  Reid Adams, Justin Yakim, Elijah Blackamore. Back row, from left:  Kaitlyn Johnson, McKinzie Kiggins, Brittany Malin, Anne Zebell, Heather Olson, Laura Lynn-Lee, Jessica Burns

Dowagiac Union High School recently announced the top 10 students of the upcoming graduating class. Pictured, front row, from left: Reid Adams, Justin Yakim, Elijah Blackamore.
Back row, from left: Kaitlyn Johnson, McKinzie Kiggins, Brittany Malin, Anne Zebell, Heather Olson, Laura Lynn-Lee, Jessica Burns

Union High School senior Jessica Burns has finally crossed off yet another accomplishment on her sizable list of goals she has set for herself.

Burns, the daughter of Bill and Audra Burns, will graduate as valedictorian of the Class of 2016 in June, leading her classmates with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Graduating at the top of her class has been something that Burns has worked on accomplishing since she was in sixth grade, as she knew then that achieving academic excellence would open doors for her later in life, she said.

“It feels really great,” Burns said. “Now that I’ve accomplished that I can move on to my other goals in life.”

Among those goals is attending Valparaiso University in the fall, where Burns plans on studying meteorology, she said. Her hard work in the classroom thus far has literally paid off for her, as she is the recipient of one of the school’s presidential scholarships, worth $82,000, she said.

“It’s a really nice program,” Burns said about the school’s meteorology program, ranked the third best in the country. “Because it’s a smaller school the professors really get to know their students and they really care about their success, which is something else I like about it.”

Attending the Indiana college was actually yet another goal the senior set for herself back in middle school, she said. Becoming a meteorologist was something she has dreamed of becoming since she was just 3 years old, she said.

The goal-oriented student has been racking up accomplishment after accomplishment throughout her time at Dowagiac Union High School. This year, Burns has served as the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Chieftain Monitor, has been the vice president of the Interact Club, and has been a member of the National Honors Society, Student Senate, Audio Visual Club and choir.

A performer in school plays and musicals since she was 4 years old, the senior also earned another major accomplishment this spring when she landed the leading role in the district’s production of “Mary Poppins.”

“Mary Poppins is my absolute favorite Disney character,” Burns said. “So while most other girls want to play one of the princesses, I was dead set on Mary Poppins.”

In terms of goals on her list after graduation, Burns intends on earning a bachelor’s in meteorology from Valparaiso, and hopes to return to the Michiana area to work as weather broadcaster with WSBT.

For now, though, Burns is concentrating on finishing up her time at Union High School, as well as working on the speech she will be delivering during the commencement ceremony on June 5.

As for the advice she gives underclassmen, she recommends they follow a similar path as she has these has: determine where you want to be in the future, know the steps on how to get there and work each and every day to finally reach that destination, she said.

“Hard work pays off,” Burns said. “If they work as hard as they can they’ll see the results they are looking for.”

Rounding out the rest of the top ten graduating seniors are:

• Salutatorian: Justin Yakim, son of Chasadena and Jeff Yakim.

• No. 3: Heather Olson, daughter of Sandy and Chris Tidey and Glenn and Jackie Olson.

• No. 4: Anne Zebell, daughter of Stephen and Claudia Zebell.

• No. 5: Reid Adams, son of Dawn and Tim Stelmasiak.

• No. 6: McKinzie Kiggins, daughter of Frances and Clarence Kiggins.

• No. 7: Laura Lynn-Lee, daughter of Rebecca Lynn.

• No. 8: Elijah Blackamore, son of Latoi Wilson and Tyree Blackamore.

• No. 9: Brittany Malin, daughter of Mike and Leslie Malin.

• No. 10: Kaitlyn Johnson, daughter of Rebecca Lowery.

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