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ACCS valedictorian looks to get wings in Air Force

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Denise Collier sits in Nikki Freeman’s science classroom at Adams County Christian School Thursday afternoon. Denise was named valedictorian for the class of 2012, earning a 4.0 grade point average.

By Mollie Beth Wallace

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Adams County Christian School senior Denise Collier only had four days to prepare her valedictory address in time for the big night.

When Collier, 18, heard she had been named ACCS’s valedictorian, she said she breathed a sigh of relief.

“I was excited because I’ve been working so hard,” Collier said.

Collier said her parents, Randy and Deborah Collier of Kingston, always encouraged her to do well academically because they knew it would take her somewhere.

However, her mother Deborah said she never dreamed Denise’s achievements would take her all the way to San Antonio, Texas.

Collier, who said she became interested in a military career when she took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test at ACCS, will begin basic training for the Air Force July 10 in San Antonio.

“I marked on the test that I was interested in a military career,” Collier said. “I made a good score on it, and I started getting calls from recruiters.”

Collier said the early retirement age and other benefits of the Air Force sounded most appealing to her, so during her junior year of high school she enlisted and signed a four-year contract.

“I wanted to do something honorable, but adventurous,” she said.

Collier’s little sister, Kimberly Collier, 13, said she is sad to see Denise leave.

“I’m scared for her,” Kimberly said. “I really don’t want her to leave, because I’ve been through everything with her.”

Collier said she plans to continue her schooling while she holds a personnel assistant position with the Air Force.

Though she doesn’t know what she wants to study, Collier said in the time before deciding a field of study she hopes to learn more about herself.

“I’m thinking the Air Force might give me some insight into what I want to do,” Collier said.

As her position at the top of her class proves, Collier said she is a very determined person.

“All I did (in high school) was study,” she said. “I didn’t play sports or anything; I just devoted all of my time to academics.”

A member of the National BETA club and the National Honor Society, Collier said she enjoyed her time at ACCS with a tight-knit class and plans to keep in touch with them.

“We did have our drama though,” Collier admitted, laughing.

Collier said her favorite memories in high school include the times she took the opportunity to display her individual style, despite ACCS uniforms.

“One time during homecoming week I wore a pink wig with black lace-up go-go boots,” Collier said. “It was kind of an 80s look.”

Perhaps such rebellious behavior stems from her love of 80s hair bands, such as Def Leppard.

“(Eighties music) is all my parents would let me listen to,” Collier said with a smile.

Collier said her attire is a medium through which she expresses herself.

“I like to mix and match,” she said. “I have my own style.”

Collier said she is more comfortable when she adds her own touches to the outfits she wears.

Her mother, Deborah, said Denise has always enjoyed standing out in the crowd.

“She was just different,” Deborah said. “When I told her not to wear some of that stuff, she wears it anyway.”

Deborah admitted that she might have influenced Denise’s creative spirit.

“I was kind of like that when I was little,” Deborah said.

While the Collier family will miss Denise, they said they are excited to see her embark on such an exciting journey.

“I’m very happy for her,” Deborah said.

Most of all, Denise said she hopes to make an impact on those around her.

“One girl from my class wrote on my Facebook wall and told me my (valedictorian) speech changed her life,” she said. “That really touched me.”

Collier said she looks forward to starting her career in the Air Force with the knowledge that she has already made her parents proud.