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One step ahead

Major, FDSH senior, will graduate from Iowa Central tonight

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Wearing her Fort Dodge Senior High letter jacket, Maddy Major, poses with an Iowa Central Community College cover that will soon hold her associate of arts degree. Major will graduate with her college degree before she graduates from FDSH. Iowa Central is holding its graduation virtually tonight.

School doesn’t stop for Maddy Major, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she kept up on all of her high school classes, whether online or face-to-face. And during the summer, she completed courses through Iowa Central Community College.

Now that hard work is paying off for the 18-year-old. Major is graduating with her associate of arts degree from Iowa Central. The college is holding its graduation virtually tonight. The FDSH graduation is on May 23.

“The pandemic has been crazy,” Major said. “And it really slowed a lot of my life down. I was a junior, so I was prepping for the ACT. I was starting spring sports and those had been canceled.”

But Major stayed focused on her academics.

“It was kind of a good thing I was taking college classes and summer classes because it gave me something to do and be productive when we couldn’t leave the house or do much of anything,” she said.

Throughout high school, Major has been involved with orchestra, golf, swim team, National Honor Society and Ambassador Society.

Major has spent most of her life in Fort Dodge. Her family moved here in 2006 from Chillicothe Missouri, where she was born.

Outside of school, she attends First United Methodist Church. She also takes private music lessons from Melissa Gillette.

Music, particularly playing the violin, is one of her favorite hobbies.

“I started playing the violin in fifth grade like most kids when they say, ‘OK you can play an instrument now,'” Major said. “I listen to a lot of classical music and thought it was the most interesting. It turns out to be one of the hardest instruments to learn. I like the challenge even though it drives me crazy sometimes.”

Major said she’s getting better.

“Sometimes when I practice I don’t think I’m even halfway decent,” she said. “With music you are always learning and I think I’m just getting better every time I practice.”

She enjoys time spent with her parents and grandparents.

Every summer, she and her brother, Brady, raise sweet corn with their grandparents in Albia.

The sweet corn they sell is money to be used for college. Major’s next move is to attend Iowa State University in Ames where she plans to major in chemical engineering.

“There’s a lot of different fields I can go into with chemical engineering,” Major said. “I could go into agriculture or oil and biofuels or pharmaceuticals and work on something like a COVID vaccine.”

Graduating college and high school simultaneously took planning and focus.

“It first started when I was in eighth grade,” she said. “The daughter of my social studies teacher had done the same thing. I thought that was cool. In eighth grade we were making our high school schedule. I made it a goal of mine to try to challenge myself while still also taking classes that I love like orchestra and Spanish and other activities like that.”

All of the classes she took met high school course credits and earned her credits at Iowa Central.

“Over the summer I took strictly Iowa Central courses,” Major said. “So for about eight to 10 weeks of summer I was still in school.”

She’s had fun with all of her high school activities. Her mom inspired her to try golf.

“My family was really into golf,” Major said. “My mom golfed in high school. I had been around golf courses a little when I was younger. I wanted to try and golf in high school and that’s when I really started playing. It’s been quite a lot of fun playing with the high school team.”

In terms of swimming, Major has been in a pool since she was about 6.

“I always loved to do swimming and my parents made it a very high priority for me to learn to swim when I was young,” Major said. “I would go to the REC a lot but the swim team was always using the bigger pool. I joined them one day and never stopped. I joined the Fort Dodge swim team which then went on to be ACAC (Ames Cyclones Aquatics Club) in Fort Dodge.”

Achieving a personal best time in swimming and having all of her friends there is just one example of the experiences she cherishes from high school.

One of her proudest moments was when the high school orchestra earned its first Division 1 rating.

“That was pretty cool to be a part of,” she said.

Making a model of a city in Andi Adams’ class is a project she won’t soon forget.

“One of my favorite things we did was sophomore year in Ms. Adams’ class,” Major said. “We had basically made a whole model off the book (”The House on Mango Street”) we were reading at the time. We basically made a whole city.”

She said they took an old poster board and built tiny models of houses made of cardboard or ice pop sticks.

“It was creative and collaborative,” Major said.

In Fort Dodge, she said, “Everyone cares about each other here.”

Major said she reaches her goals and stays consistent because she enjoys what she’s doing.

“Really I enjoy all of it and once I set my mind to it, I am going to do it, so I find a way,” Major said. “I find joy in all of it. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.”

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