By Staff Writer: Rachel Cichon
At Howell High School, you are never more than five feet away from a stressed out student. It seems everyone is constantly freaking out as they attempt to juggle their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. This proves untrue for HHS senior Makayla Millington, an inspiring student who balances a horde of responsibilities but possesses the unique ability to stay cheerful and upbeat when faced with daunting tasks.
“I guess I have to prioritize and figure out the things most important to me. I try to take things as they come and just try to not to get overwhelmed by looking at the big picture,” says Millington on how she manages her time.
Millington is a member of the National Honor Society, A Cappella choir, and the varsity tennis team. Her schedule is almost entirely AP classes and she has held a job at the Howell Carnegie District Library since the beginning of her freshman year. During the summer, she gives and receives tennis lessons and also attends voice lessons.
To keep all of this from becoming too overwhelming, Millington keeps a planner and makes many lists to keep her organized. Her planner is enormous and impressive with nearly every space penciled in.
“I have to watch because I get overwhelmed and start freaking out, and that’s when I have to slow down and take a deep breath. What’s discouraging is when you look at your planner and you have so much to do and so little time!” says Millington.
Although her activities are often stressful and time-consuming, Millington values each one and wouldn’t give up any of them if given the opportunity. Her passion for everything she plunges into is extremely noticeable in her role in NHS as a blood drive coordinator.
Three times a year, Millington and long-term best friend, senior Kathleen Laituri, joined this year by juniors Megan Bigliardi and Janice Kwan, put together a blood drive. Their role requires them to sign-up students to donate and to promote the blood drive around the school. Each year, Millington and Laituri set a personal goal to sign a certain amount of students up to give blood.
On the day of the blood drive, they arrive before the school is even officially open to begin preparing for the event in order to ensure an efficient drive. Millington attempts to have everything ready by the time nurses arrive so that they can start setting up their medical supplies immediately.
On top of all these responsibilities, Millington also donates blood herself and has an arsenal of tips for surviving the donation (specifically, drink lots of water and use the bathroom beforehand). She considers planning the blood drive to be one of her favorite memories of her time at HHS, and enjoys that she gets to plan it with help from friends.
Millington originally met Laituri in the fifth grade when they were assigned to be each other’s pen pals. Comically, Laituri had two pen pals and could only keep one. Using the keen logic of a fifth grader, she chose the pen pal with the best handwriting: Millington. Years later, they still maintain an incredible relationship and have bonded with each other over more than their penmanship.
“We’re in choir together, we do blood drives, and she helps me with sole ensemble in choir,” says Laituri.
Choir is another of Millington’s fondest high school memories, as it allows her to exercise a love for singing while spending time with her closest friends. She is currently a member of A Cappella choir and especially loves participating in the A Cappella choir tour.
“Those are just three days of good memories, because you get to hang out and meet new people while seeing your old friends,” says Millington on why she adores the three-day journey. “Elementary school at Christmas with Highlander Chorale is another great experience.”
Millington’s time in choir has left a lasting impact on more people than just herself. Choir teacher Mr. Rod Bushey reflects on the four years he has spent with her and questions whether his classroom will be as lively without her presence.
“I was talking the other day about what it’s going to be like without Makayla. She has the sweetest disposition and she handles her peers so well,” says Mr. Bushey. “Her people skills are over the top. Her ability just to deal with people is remarkable, and she is just lovely.”
Millington is an “A” student who has taken a slew of AP classes and managed to become sixth in her class rank. Some students would flounder with only a portion of the workload she has taken on, but Millington is a driven student who puts aside time for herself to complete and understand the material, ensuring her success.
“I just like to learn,” says Millington. “I guess I’m a pretty motivated and independent person.”
It isn’t easy to juggle all of this, and Millington will admit to having the occasional meltdown, but she is generally able to clear her head and complete the tasks at hand. It isn’t unlikely for people to deal with stress by playing sports, and Millington is no exception. She uses her position on the varsity tennis team to evade stress.
“Sometimes I just have to cry and let it out emotionally. I think playing tennis really helps, it’s a couple hours every day to just forget about what’s stressing me out at school,” says Millington. “I love the tennis season because it makes everything so much better, because I get to stay after school and hang out with my teammates and have a good time.”
Millington’s last tennis season at HHS has only begun, but they are off to an impressive and positive beginning. In their first match against four other teams, Millington won gold on her doubles flights.
“Tennis in general has been a huge, good memory. Beating Grand Blanc last year was pretty satisfying.” reminisces Millington. “We played Pinckney yesterday and won – so we’re off to a great start!”
Another stress-alleviating activity for Millington is her job at the library, where she shelves books as a page. Millington began the job early in her freshman year and has enjoyed it since. Not only is the job a calming way for her to reflect on the school day, but it is a good match for her personality and schedule, as she is able to work around her busy schedules and is never forced to take on too many hours.
“I love my job at the library. I started working at the very beginning of my freshman year so it’s been all of high school by now and I could not have asked for a better job!” says Millington. “I love everyone that I work with, and it’s a perfect job because it’s so flexible with my schedule which is that’s super convenient. Plus all of my coworkers are the best. I just have a good time at work, and it’s super low stress.”
Millington leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets, and this is clearly visible at her workplace, where everyone is amazed by her ability to shelve a cart of books in a mere half hour. It’s extremely uncommon for a student to find a job as young as Millington. Many juniors and seniors struggle to find employment, but Millington persevered, aided by her benevolent attitude and mannerisms.
“Makayla is an outstanding young woman. I first met her when she introduced herself as an incoming freshman and I was incredibly impressed – she was always professional, always polite and always on time,” says Millington’s boss, Emily DeJaegher, who has a vivid memory of Millington sending her a handwritten thank-you letter within a few days of her interview.
Unsurprisingly given her job, Millington loves to read in the rare occasion she has free time. Her favorite book since childhood is the Secret Garden, but Life of Pi is another novel dear to her heart. Although she sometimes struggles to find time to watch them, Millington also loves movies, particularly Marvel films.
“I’m in World Lit and AP English and we have read lots of essays. AP English is definitely my favorite class because I think it’s so interesting…I’m an English nerd,” laughs Millington.
Millington’s English teacher of two years, Mrs. Dawn Webster, agrees that Millington has a penchant for English. “She impacts the dynamics of the classroom and does a nice job contributing to discussion and bringing up issues outside of the class that are still relevant.”
If given the chance, Millington also likes to play piano. She once took piano lessons along with voice and tennis lessons, but felt it had to be cut if she was going to keep up with everything else going on in her life. Similarly, she had to give up student council, which she was a member of for three years, because it was one of the few activities she felt she could afford to cut from her schedule.
Above anything else, the biggest motivation and inspiration to Millington – other than her own personal strength and determination – is her family. Millington comes from a close, tight-knit family that spends a lengthy amount of time together, particularly on vacations and at her sister’s softball games.
“I have a little sister who’s in seventh grade, she plays softball and we go to all her games. We also go on vacations – we go up north a lot. We have a cabin up there that’s really fun and we do all the up north things: kayaking, boating and all that,” explains Millington. “My family is the biggest motivation, and my little sister is a big inspiration to me.”
With all of her abilities, responsibilities and skills, as well as her unrelenting determination and unfailingly cheerful disposition, it is no surprise that Millington will be going on to do great things with her life. She has already received a full tuition to Liberty University in Virginia. She received the tuition after applying to the school’s Honors Program and was commended by the National Honors Program for her PSAT score.
To alleviate travelling costs, Millington has made the bold decision to stay in Virginia even during the summer and on most holidays. Although she admits that she will miss her family and friends, she’s excited to begin the journey that will lead to the rest of her life.
“It’ll be a big change, but I think I’ll be okay because I’m not a huge homebody. So I think I’ll be alright, although sometimes when I’m hanging out with my family it kind of hits me. But I’m looking forward to it,” she declares courageously.
Millington wants to major in journalism and aspires for a career in either print media or print publication. She’s also considering editing or TV broadcasting. If Millington’s high school achievements are an efficient way to measure success, she’s certain to achieve anything she sets out to do if she employs her unrelenting perseverance, discipline and natural intelligence.
Although Millington has no regrets with her life thus far and is happy with everything that occurred to her at HHS, she laments that there are other things she would have liked to do and try.
“I always wished I had done another sport, like running or cross country. I wouldn’t have gotten rid of anything, but the school has so many cool programs and there are a lot of classes I could have taken. Maybe another language – like French – or an art class, just to get a feel for the different wings of the school,” Millington muses.
Millington should serve as an inspiration to any student who is unsure of whether or not they should commit to something important to them. if Millington can balance all of her activities and take every opportunity thrown her way, there is no doubt that anyone in HHS is capable of achieving something equally impressive, whether they follow in Millington’s footsteps or try some of the avenues Millington was unable too.
Above all else, Millington should be admired for her dedication to every goal and responsibility she sets for herself and her example should give students the courage to push themselves to their highest potential. She possesses the unique ability to rise above challenges and prove herself in the face of arduous tasks, making her a worthy inspiration to any Highlander.
Millington’s legacy at HHS will end very soon, but it will take much longer for it to be forgotten. Although she will be missed, the end of Millington’s senior year is a bittersweet farewell as those left behind know that wherever she goes, she will be achieving amazing things for herself. Students should feel proud to have had the opportunity to learn alongside her.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about leaving home, but I think all the seniors are all going through that right now,” says Millington. “I’m scared, but I’m really excited,”