The Fort Campbell High School Class of 2020 salutatorian shared her message of acceptance, adaptability and how personal success looks different for everybody during her commencement speech, a capstone to years of hard work and academic discipline she set for herself.
Madison McCormick will attend Cornell University, where she will major in biological sciences on the premed track, with hopes of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.
“I’m really excited,” Madison said. “It’s been kind of surreal these past several weeks leading up to graduation. It seemed more like a title, salutatorian, than anything, but after writing the speech and coming to terms with graduation, it’s nice to see all of the hard work pay off. It will be something nice to look back at.”
During her high school career, Madison was a member of the Mu Alpha Theta, a National High School and Two-Year College Mathematics Honor Society; she participated in the Future Educators of America; was a member of the National Honor Society, student council and the First Priority Christian Club. Madison was an active varsity tennis player and a manager for the wrestling team.
She is the daughter of Melanie and First Sgt. Matthew McCormick, A Company, 39th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Comat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Because of COVID-19 precautionary measure, the FCHS traditional commencement ceremony was filmed at the school. Madison’s parents and younger siblings attended the filming, during which she gave her speech and her parents presented he with her diploma cover.
“It was pretty amazing,” Madison said. “I didn’t realize my parents were going to be handing me my diploma until I got there, and the staff explained it to me. I was expecting to have to pick up the diploma cover off of a table or something where they were all set out, so it was really special to be able to have that moment with my Family and have them there with me.”
In her speech, Madison shared a message about personal success. She reflected on how everyone is different, and everyone has a different perspective of what success looks like.
“We can all be successful, but that success will look different,” she said. “You need to value your own success instead of comparing yourselves to everyone else.”
Madison’s parents said their daughter has always dreamed of becoming a doctor and has had a natural drive to work hard in school from a young age.
“She has a really high drive for success,” Melanie said. “She puts a lot of effort into her work, she’s very focused. She’s always been this way, once she has her mind made up she definitely sticks to what she wants. Her goal her whole life was to become a doctor and a surgeon, and she keeps that in sight. Madison hasn’t let things that normally distract other kids in high school deter her from what she wants. I think she’s going to do well in college.”
Madison’s Family moved into a home off-post in the middle of her high school career. She begged her parents to allow her to continue attending FCHS, because Madison believes the Department of Defense Education Activity education she was receiving was the best she could have to help her achieve her future goals.
“We are held to high standards, and we were helped to meet those standards, but we were expected to put the work in,” Madison said. “I think FCHS definitely prepared me for college in that regard, and it taught me I need to step up and put the work in for myself.”
She also attributes much of her academic success to the support she received from her teachers at FCHS.
“I think the teachers I’ve had here have had the biggest impact on me,” Madison said. “I was able to build relationships with them, I was here for all four years, and the teachers knew me and saw who I was and were able to help guide me. They know I’m a perfectionist, but they helped me learn it’s not always important to be perfect, and that they recognize my hard work and were proud of me regardless.”
Fort Campbell is the McCormick Family’s fourth duty station, but her parents say Madison has always worked hard to meet the academic rigor of every single school she has attended.
“It’s made her a very resilient and personable person,” Matthew said. “Moving all the time, you have the skills to be able to just move in and make friends right off the bat and adapt to whatever situation you’re going into. I think this is a trait she’s going to carry with her in whatever she decides to do in the future.”
Madison is the oldest of four children, and her parents say she matured at a young age to help support her parents during deployments and caring for her younger siblings.
“She is so prepared,” Melanie said. “She thinks far ahead, sometimes I don’t even have to say anything and she’s already on top of things. As far as birth order goes, Madison has already gained a lot of skills. She’s very well-rounded.”
While Madison’s Family participated in celebrating the end of her high school career, Madison has some regrets about not being able to properly say goodbye to her fellow classmates.
“I have mixed emotions,” she said. “It’s nice we were able to have some sort of graduation, we did the video and were able to go in and take photos, but it’s very different than what we were expecting. We didn’t get to have our friends and Family come in and be a part of it, and as military kids a lot of our friends are moving away so we won’t be able to spend time together this summer after graduation.”
Being around other military children, Madison was exposed to a variety of different cultures, beliefs and personalities. This ability to be accepting of different people is one of the major lessons Madison said she will carry with her.
“I struggled at first with finding a good core group of friends,” she said. “I’ve already met people with different backgrounds as a military kid. Now, I’m in a group online for my graduating class at Cornell, so I’m able to interact with all kinds of different people and make friends, and I think being a military kid has helped a lot with that. I’m really excited to go to a big school, coming from a small school, everyone knows everyone. I’m excited to be able to meet new people every day and make more memories and friendships.”