MOUNDRIDGE — Mackenzie Porter, a senior at Moundridge High School, was named to the Topeka Capitol-Journal's first-team Kansas All-State Academic Team for 2019.

"I am a very driven person; I like to do well," Porter said. "I like not necessarily to be the best, but to perform things to the best of my ability and I'm always thinking, 'oh, there's something else I could be doing.'"

Porter has attended school in Moundridge her whole life, but being in a small school did not keep her from big opportunities. When she was 12, she went to Europe with a group of students from across the country as part of the People to People international travel program.

While in Europe, Porter took part in service projects and stayed with host families who introduced her to the local culture.

"My favorite place was Stratford-upon-Avon in England," Porter said. "It's such a cute and charming little town with so much history."

Porter credits that experience as playing a major part in developing her into a goal-oriented person.

"I think it helped me to mature faster than some other people, because you don't see many 12-year-olds who just go off and manage their own money and their own bedtime without their parents around for a month," Porter said.

In high school, Porter participates in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and the National Honors Society.

She also sang in the choir, played volleyball for two years and was a cheerleader for the past four years.

"I was very busy, going to all of the games for football and basketball," Porter said. "There were lots of late nights."

Porter also won first place with her art showcase at the recent county-wide competition.

"I am very much a science person," Porter said. "Art allows me to express everything else that I don't get to express when you have to think inside a box in math or science."

Despite her busy schedule, Porter maintained a 4.0 grade point average and scored a 30 on the ACT.

"I think what sets me apart from other people is how I balance all of it and still do well in everything," Porter said.

One of the people who pushed Porter to excel is Moundridge High School Spanish teacher Daagya Dick.

"She is not afraid to have a conversation about anything with you," Porter said. "If you want to talk about what you ate for lunch or more serious topics like religion ... she's open to talking about anything and I think that has definitely allowed more students to feel comfortable in coming to her and talking to her about their issues."

Porter will attend Kansas State University to study chemical engineering and nutrition.

"I want to develop more efficient water conservation systems for people all over the world," Porter said. "You always think of people in Africa who don't have clean water to drink, but that's also a reality for a lot of people here in Kansas. I think that's a big need that our world has."

The most important thing for students coming into high school, according to Porter, is to continually strive to do their best.

"Always push yourself to do more ... and always try to do the right thing, even if it's not what the popular kids are doing or what your teachers or parents want you to do," Porter said. "That way, at the end of the day, if you have a failed friendship (or) a failed test, you know you did as much as you could."