Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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June 7, 2014

Means, Lee lead CHS Class of 2014

Corsicana — Corsicana High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian have known for four years that they were in competition for that top spot, but they’ve remained friends throughout. This year, both girls had almost an identical schedule and they shared notes and helped each other whenever they could, never taking advantage when the other had to be out for competitions or health reasons.

The girls have gone to school together since they were tiny, and both even took cheerleading lessons together when they were younger.

“We’ve never been competitive,” said MaKenzie Lee, salutatorian. “Many times, I’ll call Caraline ‘hey, do we have a test tomorrow? Can you text me a photo of the notes?’ It’s always been like that.”

Caraline Means, valedictorian, agreed.

“If anyone were to beat me in class rank I’d want it to be MaKenzie, because I know she works as hard as I do,” Caraline said.

Although at the top of their class, both young women are involved in more than academics. Caraline, 18, is also a cheerleader as well as long list of other activities like editor of the yearbook and student council. MaKenzie, also 18, is on the varsity volleyball and track teams. She’s captain of the volleyball team. She also has a long resume of other extracurriculars, including student council and class officer.

Caraline will attend Texas Tech where she’s going to focus on sciences and pre-med. She’s been admitted to the honors program there. Her goal is to work with kids. Her dream job? A pediatric oncologist at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, although she hasn’t ruled out working abroad in a kind of Doctors Without Borders situation.

MaKenzie is also thinking medicine, but she’ll attend Texas A&M University, where she’ll also be in the honors program. She wants to be a psychiatrist, to better understand why people think and behave the way they do.

Both pointed to the fact that the honors programs, while harder, have smaller classes and they don’t want to get lost in the shuffle.

“At a big university they have huge classes, and very rarely do teachers know who you are,” MaKenzie explained.

Although they haven’t had to fight one another for the top spot, they did feel the pressure, and that’s taken its toll on their social lives. Sleep seems to be one thing both girls gave up — a lot.

Both girls had schedules that included 18-hour days of school, activities and studying until midnight or 1 a.m., to the point where their families actually discouraged them from taking any college classes this summer.

“My mom wants me to be a teenager,” Caraline said, laughing.

MaKenzie said she wants to spend part of the summer doing that as well.

“Just enjoy life. Every minute of my life has been full. I’m going to take it one day at a time and enjoy the summer.”

Both girls intend to work this summer. Caraline as a lifeguard at the country club, and MaKenzie at a daycare. They need to save money for college expenses. Although their tuition and dorms are covered the first year, the other three years are only partly covered with various scholarships.

Caraline pointed to her drive and focus that helped in high school. “I can’t not care. I physically can’t. (Valedictorian) never was the goal, but my brother was number seven in his class. My goal was to be six or better.”

For MaKenzie, the impetus was being organized. Incredibly organized. Being on the sports teams and taking harder classes forced her to become even more organized than she was, she said.

“For me, it’s finding a balance between sports and school, I’m involved in so many things,” she said. “It’s hard for me to find the balance. I think that’s what ultimately made me successful and is what will make me successful in the future.”

Both acknowledge that they didn’t do it on their own. Both young women have amazing families. Caraline’s parents are Pam and Charley Means. MaKenzie’s parents are Paula and Danzell Lee. In addition to the driving their daughters to various events, and providing money for extracurricular expenses, they’ve been there every step of the way showing how much the girls are loved and how much they matter.

Caraline’s mom would come sleep on her daughter’s bedroom’s floor, to help Caraline stay awake while studying.

“Both my mom and dad have been huge supporters,” MaKenzie said. “Dad never missed a single game unless he had a meeting for work.”

“It’s crazy how much our parents do for us,” Caraline said. “We’re really fortunate.”

Although they love their families, neither Caraline or MaKenzie are planning on returning to Corsicana to live.

“I was made for a big city,” Caraline said. “I need more.”

MaKenzie said she hasn’t completely ruled it out, someday.

“I love this community,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t work here, but I feel like I could live here.”


Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at


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