The valedictorian of the Spencer-Van Etten Class of 2019 is a young man whose parents are very proud of him. Nathan Mack, son of Marie and Alfie Mack of Spencer, is not just a high achiever in his high school academic work but will graduate from TC3 with an associate’s degree because he took so many college-level courses at S-VE over the last two years.
Mack is a very focused person. Whatever he puts his mind to, he gives it his best effort. He excels at sports as well as academics. As an athlete, he earned many honors. He played varsity football and basketball for three years; this year he was captain of both teams.
Mack was named a first team All-Star in both sports; Most Valuable Player in the basketball IAC Small School South Division, as well as being selected for the Elite 10 Ithaca Region All-Star Basketball Team.
In May, Mack was chosen as a Top Drawer 24 athlete by the selection committee, which looks at athletes from 10-11 schools. Top Drawer 24 honorees demonstrate good character, community service, and all-round personal development.
When not studying or playing sports, Nathan has done his share of community service. He enjoys younger kids, including his youngest brother and his friends, whom he babysat for years. He also enjoyed coaching Little Panthers Basketball, teaching beginning skills to young children. “I’ll miss that next year,” he said. “It was fun!” He also plays trombone in the school band.
Next year Mack will attend Rochester Institute of Technology to become a mechanical aerospace engineer. His interest in that field was sparked in middle school, when a friend told him that’s what he wanted to become. Mack thought it sounded good, so he looked into it and decided it was a good match for him. After four years at RIT, he will graduate with a master’s degree and be well on his way in his career choice.
Thinking about his high school years, Mack said, “I really enjoyed my time at this school. It was one of the best four years of my life. I’m going to miss it. And—it was a great experience, a great blessing, playing basketball and football on the varsity team with my brother (Noah).” Not many big brothers would say that, but Nathan is a family guy. He likes spending time at home with his family, which is part of what makes him special and his parents proud.
MacKenzie Jones is the Salutatorian of the Class of 2019. The daughter of Jennifer Jones of Spencer, she has been balancing a heavy academic, sports and employment schedule for several years, which has kept her very busy. As first clarinet in the S-VE High School Band, she was invited by band teacher Dan Miller to participate in the 2018 American Music Abroad trip.
This group of high school students from around the eastern United States visited and performed in Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Austria and Germany. Jones loves to travel and plans to travel around the world some day. “I find it intriguing – learning about other cultures and their history, seeing the architecture, especially the cathedrals. It’s very eye-opening,” she said.
Jones is not afraid to go after what she wants. She always wanted to play football, so she went out for the football team as a freshman. “I kick myself for not starting earlier. I didn’t play youth football. I tried to play [in high school], but I couldn’t keep up, with my asthma, so I stayed with the team as a manager.”
After that year, Jones played volleyball in the fall, softball in the spring, and one year tried competition cheerleading. She was always a scholar athlete, meaning she made the highest honor roll every marking period while playing a sport.
Some of her other high school activities include Art Club, Yearbook Club, Quiz Team, and volunteer junior fire fighter with Community Fire Department in Van Etten.
She also helps with fundraising for Halsey Valley (and the former Van Etten Village) fire departments, when they have chicken barbecues or pancake breakfasts. Something else she enjoys doing is volunteering in the pre-K classroom, where her mother works. She also dresses up as that school’s mascot, a hawk, when needed.
MacKenzie was offered a variety of scholarships, but the Key Award from Elmira College attracted her to study there next fall. With that $20,000 grant and the other scholarships she won, almost all of her expenses will be paid. She plans to study biology because she “loves all the sciences” and thinks it will be good preparation for becoming a flight paramedic, her career goal.