Mackenzie Mills is a top academic who excels in STEM fields — and at the same time, a creative person who has a distinguished career in Irish dance. Ranked No.1 academically, Mills has maintained a perfect GPA while taking 14 advance and Honors classes and scoring at the top in her AP tests.
“I’ve taken every AP class I can at Peninsula. It’s been difficult at times but my work ethic helps,” she said.
Described as a scholar with high intellectual curiosity, Mills has demonstrated a constant drive to challenge herself.
“She has a thirst for knowledge and is excited to learn every day,” said her AP statistics teacher Peter Pratz.
While academics have been a major focus, Mills has also devoted the past 14 years to Irish dancing. She holds the highest solo rank — open champion — and has competed at highest levels, including world championships. She also participates in team and show dancing.
She dances an average of 15 hours a week, not including competitions.
“I like it because it’s a good workout and it keeps you in good health. But it’s also fun because I get to work on steps and techniques that are hard to master,” she said. “It takes brain power to learn new movements.”
At her dance studio, Mills has served as dance captain and camp counselor.
“These roles are offered only to a select number of dancers who have a strong work ethic, good leadership skills and an empathic ability to work well with others,” said her dance teacher Patricia Prendergast Martig, director of Scoil Rince Slieveloughane school of Irish dance.
While at Key Peninsula Middle School, Mills became interested in aeronautics and astrophysics, and was twice selected as an ambassador as part of the school’s NASA Explorer program. She visited Cape Canaveral and other space centers in Florida one year, and the Ames Research Center the next. Those experiences inspired her to pursue a career in astrophysics, with the dream of becoming an astronaut.
In high school, she was selected for the Washington Aerospace Scholars program, working with a student team on a mock mission to Mars.
She plans to study astrophysics either at Johns Hopkins University or Dartmouth College as well as continue her solo training in Irish dance.
She says the timing is perfect to be involved in the aerospace industry because by the time she receives her bachelor’s degree and continues on to a doctorate in astrophysics, the real mission to Mars will be fast-approaching.
“It’s going to be a wonderful field,” she said.
Education: Senior, Peninsula High School
Parents: Lisa and Matthew Mills Activities/Achievements: Ranked No. 1 academically; 14 AP/Honors classes; AP Scholar with Honor; AP Scholar with Distinction; Washington Aerospace Scholar; National Honor Society; Knowledge Bowl; cross-country; Irish dance rank of open champion, camp counselor; SCUBA certification; volunteer for Spring Fling, Citizen of the Year and other events; Husky Helpers tutor; chemistry tutor
Favorite teacher: Kimberly Napier. “Besides teaching the subject of English at a depth I had never experienced, she is one of the bravest and kindest people I have ever met and is a wonderful role model.”
Best thing about high school: “I love the goodwill and kindness that each and every person has at Peninsula. It makes me feel right at home, because I am surrounded every day by smart, wonderful, caring people.”