If you ask Mikyla Wilkie, eighth grader at Polk County Middle School, what makes her special, she will blush.
“I am very thankful and I feel very blessed,” she says humbly about all of her accomplishments.
Wilkie was one of 50 students out of more than 2,000 applicants recently recognized in a national academic scholarship program offered through the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars program.
The program is a selective, five-year, pre-college scholarship offered to high-performing seventh grade students that provides comprehensive academic and college advising as well as financial support for school, summer programs, internships and other learning enrichment opportunities. The scholarship provides funds for Wilkie to design her own academic and extracurricular opportunities, supplemental classes and technology, four years of advising and community programming and annual summer programs.
Wilkie said she plans to use some of the funds to learn computer coding and learn how to play the guitar.
Currently Wilkie is interested in forensic sciences. Last summer, she studied the Science of Film and Literature through the Duke TIP Scholars program, where she wrote screenplays and studied Sherlock Holmes and how forensic data helps solve crimes. The Polk County Community Foundation provided the funding for Wilkie and numerous other Polk County students to attend the summer sessions.
“Duke TIP helped me learn how to become more independent and relearn how to make friends,” Wilkie said. “This experience gave me skills I will need in my future, like how to take care of myself, and work in groups, and it just prepared me for life. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience.”
Wilkie is no stranger to academic honors. Due to her qualifying scores for the Duke TIP program, she earned both state and national recognition for extremely high scoring students on the ACT. Wilkie also has maintained grades of all A’s in her middle school career while staying involved in the school play Help Us, Mister Holmes!, the book club and basketball.
“From a very young age, Mikyla impressed those around her with her intelligence and wit; she was never shy of asking ‘why’ or intimidated by learning something new,” said Wilkie’s mother, Amanda Casey. “As she has grown and matured, that intelligence has increased exponentially, showcased by achievements such as consistent A honor roll, highest grade point average in several different classes, a summer experience at Duke TIP and, most recently, awarded acceptance into the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars program.
“The amazing thing about Mikyla is her well-roundedness – in addition to her academic achievements, she enjoys basketball, volleyball, snowboarding, music and theatre. I can speak for the entire family in saying we are all extremely proud of her! I cannot wait to see what wonderful things unfold in the future for Mikyla. The sky is the limit!”
Mikyla’s sister, Jennifer Shuman, graduated from Clemson University with a double major in genetics and microbiology and is currently a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University.
This summer, Wilkie will be attending an awards ceremony at Penn State and attending a three-week camp, part of her first experience with other Jack Kent Cooke scholarship recipients. She also wants to continue enrolling in Duke University’s TIP Scholars program.