Kees awarded one of six superintendent scholarshipsMillsaps freshman, former Vicksburg High School valedictorian, graduated with 4.52 GPA

Published 11:10 am Wednesday, October 17, 2012

After graduating as valedictorian from Vicksburg High School, Millsaps College freshman Daniel Kees received even more accolades when he was awarded one of six Mississippi Association of Superintendent scholarships.

Kees, who is majoring in political science, graduated from VHS with a 4.52 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

Though Kees’ final GPA might be surprising to some, it was not for his mother, Janice, who saw an innate drive in him from an early age.

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“I noticed when he was in kindergarten,” she said. “As a mother, and then, as a widow, whatever little talent I saw, I pushed him to work on that. We would have meetings with the teachers and they would always give me a good weekly report.”

Janice said that when Daniel and his older brother, Joshua, were young, she and her late husband Dr. Stewart Kees did not use baby-talk, but spoke with proper grammar and encouraged proper behavior.

When asked where his personal drive comes from, Daniel was quick to answer.

“I would say my mom definitely,” he said. “She’s raised me and my older brother, Joshua, to work hard and keep God first.”

Janice said she focused on encouraging Daniel in any pursuits he enjoyed.

“He loved to draw at an early age, so I’d take him to the Bible store and get him pens and pencils,” she said. “He had his own little bookbag with crayons. As a single mom, I trained him and his brother to entertain themselves. And as time went on, Daniel was always a student that was going to give it his best.”

Interestingly, it was not an academic achievement, or even when Daniel was named valedictorian that his mother sees as his crowning achievement.

“The thing that always made me proud was his piano recitals,” Janice said. “I always remember when he would finish doing his pieces, it made me so proud, the tears would run down my cheeks.”

She went on to say that of all her sons’ instructors, one of the most influential was their piano teacher, Joan Henderson Leefe.

“She’s one person I consider a true friend and by her being a strict person, that gave them a lot,” Janice said. “She would always tell me you gotta drill them. It taught them how to be disciplined and it helped with their math skills.”

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford, who presented Kees with his award in September, was proud to call him a graduate of Vicksburg Warren schools.

“He is a child that has made it through school who we know will make it through college and will be an awesome contributor to our 21st century society despite many barriers that could have blocked him,” Swinford said. “He was a very responsible young man all through his career and was a leader among his peers.”

Daniel said that after graduating, he hopes to attend law-school or graduate school in hopes of entering politics. After that, he said he will not limit his options.

“I would say it’s wait-and-see right now,” Kees said. “Why not shoot for president one day? I still very much want to be in elected office, but I haven’t seen what the campaigns are like. There’s a lot of internships for freshmen to get their feet wet, so I’ll see where I am by graduation.”