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NHS student sacrifices for success

Terika Tillman places Lucy Williams’ groceries in bags while working her part-time job at Southside Market in Natchez Wednesday afternoon. Below, Tillman was recently awarded the title of Miss Natchez High. (Eric Shelton / The Natchez Democrat)

By Emily lane

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Anyone who thought it was easy for this year’s Miss Natchez High to earn a 4.13 GPA, a 25 on her ACT and still have time for work and play, are mistaken.

Terika Tillman, who was elected Miss Natchez High this year, said her success did not fall into her lap; she worked hard for it.

“It takes a lot of sacrifice,” Tillman said after a big sigh.

Tillman, 18, campaigned for the top title at NHS with a platform of leadership and academics, and she also spoke to classrooms, made a speech on the intercom and baked cookies and cereal treats to reach voters in every grade.

Because Tillman never knows who might be looking up to her, she said the responsibility to live up to her title keeps her motivated.

Time management is Tillman’s key to being well rounded and making good grades, she said.

Tillman is also a member of the Beta Club, National Honor Society and is a senior class representative.

“I make (success) a priority and focus on what’s important to me, and since I have a job, it’s very challenging,” Tillman said.

Tillman, a senior, also works at Southside Market from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. most days after she is dismissed early from school at 1 p.m.

And she still manages to sneak in a social life, she said.

“On Friday I go to work with a smile and then go out (with friends),” Tillman said. “But in the back of my mind I know I have homework to do Sunday.”

Tillman said she gets her motivation from her parents and family, and also from witnessing the unused potential of others.

“So many times people just settle for mediocre instead of doing what they can,” Tillman said.

Watching the mistakes of others also helps steer Tillman in the right direction, she said.

For Tillman, furthering her education and doing what she loves — chemistry — is her focus.

Tillman said she discovered her knack for chemistry in 10th grade under the instruction of teacher Daisy Woods.

“I became intrigued with the ‘Why?’ of things,” Tillman said. She hopes to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry and become chemist one day, she said.

“Every aspect of our daily life involves chemistry in some form or fashion,” Tillman said.

She also volunteers at a nursing home at Christmas time and has participated in recent charitable walks.

In addition to the Miss NHS, Tillman is the NHS STAR Student, which requires a 25 on the ACT and 93 percent average in each core subject.

Tillman will attend a STAR banquet in Jackson in April with other STAR students from around the state.

In addition, the Natchez Business and Civic League named Tillman one of the students of the year, for which she received a scholarship.

Tillman has not made up her mind about where she wants to attend college, although she said many people have inquired.

Although she will miss the carefree life of being a high school kid in her hometown, she looks forward to traveling to college to become an adult, Tillman said.

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