Before eighth grader Jiona Mills arrives at William R. Davie Middle each morning, she makes a stop for Algebra II at Northwest Halifax High School.

It is this academic achievement and more that led to her being named Halifax County Schools Student of the Year for 2011-12.

“I’m honored,” Mills said. “I did not think I would be chosen.”

A math lover, Mills is the daughter of Jeffery and Johnell Mills. She said the subject is something she understands quickly.

“I just like it,” she said.

Every morning, she heads to the high school for Algebra II, which is a 90-minute class made up of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Then she heads to the middle school for the rest of her school day.

Mills made history as the first seventh grader in the district to participate in the Algebra I regional and state competitions.

“It was crazy,” Mills said. “I liked the experience.”

Math coach Tessa Webb-Lewis said Mills finished in fourth place in the Algebra I Regional Competition at Chowan University in March.

The competition consisted of middle and high school students with her accomplishment at the regional competition unusual because very few seventh graders compete.

Mills went to the state finals held at Fayetteville State University on April 26.

“She is attentive, diligent in her work, committed to doing her best and has an overall pleasing disposition,” Webb-Lewis said.

Mills’ love of reading led to her participating in Battle of the Books at the county level and winning first place in Halifax County’s system wide spelling bee.

Gloria Harris, an Academically and Intellectually Gifted specialist who has worked with Mills since third grade, is not surprised.

“Her character warrants commendations due to her patience, determination, diligence, concern and compassion for people and for the expertise she portrays in being a team player,” Harris said. “She listens attentively, executes assignments and duties as assigned, motivates many students to try to succeed and is a role model to a large number of her peers.”

In addition to excelling in academics, Mills plays basketball, softball, volleyball and runs track.

Miller said she sees school as a grand opportunity that leads to future success. Her goals include attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn a degree in math or veterinary science.

During the summer, Mills was accepted at Veterinary Camp at the Gateway Center on the campus of N.C. Wesleyan University. She was also accepted and will attend Labs for Learning at the N.C. School of Science and Math.

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