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KP native Mackenzie Mills is entering her sophomore year at Johns Hopkins University on a full scholarship. Courtesy Mackenzie Mills

Vaughn resident Mackenzie Mills, 19, completed her freshman year at Johns Hopkins University this year with a place on the dean’s list. Mills is pursuing a double major in physics and Earth and planetary sciences, along with a minor in space science engineering. “Students who earn a term grade-point average of 3.5 or above in a program of at least 14 credits with at least 12 graded credits” are honored for their academic excellence, according to the university.

“I’ve decided to study physics because of the astronomical and mathematical applications, and planetary science builds on that,” Mills said. “My ultimate goal is to become a NASA astronaut and live on Mars, so planetary science is perfect.”

Mills, whose parents are both educators, attended elementary and middle school on the KP and graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Peninsula High School in 2016. Johns Hopkins offered her a scholarship covering the entire cost of her tuition.

“I would say that my high school years earned my scholarship for me,” she said. “I knew the basic direction of where I wanted to go and worked very hard, both academically and in my extracurricular activities, to make my resume and application strong.”

Mills also offered advice for her fellow Seahawks at PHS.

“Take advantage of all the opportunities before you; there’s so many of them if you only take the time to look,” she said. “The AP classes can give you an academic stretch if you want and the teachers are there to help you. Also, the KP community offers so many volunteer opportunities. I would say the best steps are to discover what you love and then find a way to pursue that.”

Leaving home to live on another coast and in a new culture brought its own challenges.

“It was actually very strange to leave last fall because I have lived here (on the KP) my entire life,” Mills said. “When I arrived in Baltimore, it was completely different than anything I had ever experienced before. However, I enjoy living on the East Coast much more than I thought—but don’t tell my parents (Matt and Lisa Mills of Vaughn).”

In spite of her ambition, Mills said her plans for the future are “pretty nebulous.”

“I am excited for the career opportunities that await me on the East Coast because many of NASA’s space centers tend to be in the east or southeast of the United States,” she said. “But though I do love my studies at Hopkins, there’s something about the place you grew up that cannot be replaced.”

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