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Justin Mills stands outside the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe downtown on Thursday night, May 21, 2015 before the annual baccalaureate service. With a 4.36 cumulative GPA, Justin is the 2015 valedictorian for Bishop Dunne. He will be attending The University of Texas at Dallas to study math and plans to become a math professor.

Valedictorian Justin Mills is a Renaissance Man

Most high school seniors can’t wait to get away from school. Justin Matthew Mills probably has spent more time than the average student completing lots of quality homework and attending every football game played during his high school career, although he’s not really into sports. “I play trombone in the band,” he explains, “so we performed at all the games. But I missed a lot of the action, because we were either preparing to go on the field for the half time show or on our third quarter break.”
A graduate of St. Elizabeth’s, he came to Bishop Dunne with a number of classmates, including the Oliver twins, Aubrey and Avery, Giselle Martinez, Ramses Valdez, Ashley Ortega, Josh Gleason, and Lilly Connally. He attended DeSoto private school before that, and found Bishop Dunne to be a bit bigger and more challenging, especially the 90-minute classes. But surrounded by friendly classmates and excellent teachers, he soon found his niche. Mr. Jim Martin was his favorite freshman year. By senior year, Mr. Kevin Braun was his favorite. “I had him for both AP Calculus and AP Statistics, and he’s sort of comically insane and highly entertaining.”
And although he played baseball and soccer in middle school, he chose to concentrate on band and academics in high school. But Swim Coach Robbie Zeske said she would have been happy to have him on her team. “He is a HECK OF A SWIMMER! He took a PE credit one summer with me during his freshman year on stroke proficiency and water safety. He was a rock star!”
Known more for his quiet demeanor than his athletic ability, history and government teacher Mark Clifford said, “He once dressed up like me during Spirit Week for Twin Day. This was his sophomore year. It was hilarious. I had never had a student do something like that. I have a picture I can show you!”
Band Director Daniel Harrelson has high praise for his trombone player: “Justin is one of the most musically talented young people that I've had the pleasure to teach.  In addition to his skills, given by God and honed through much effort, he is very humble, professional, polite, kind, and encouraging.  He will be missed in the future!”
Justin survived a whole year in Mrs. Graham’s and Ms. Maclin’s AP English class his senior year as the only male. “His eleven female classmates appreciated his gentlemanly demeanor and not once did we tease him-or rarely,” Ms. Graham confided. “He’s very musical, having played the piano since middle school and he has been in the band all this time.”

In his personal bio, Justin said, “When I came to Bishop Dunne as a Freshman I was a bit of a wreck. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future and barely had any idea what to do at any given moment. But as I fleshed out some friendships and became a little more confident in myself, I quickly got into the rhythm of things. The only thing I really had that carried over from middle school was piano, which I continue to practice and enjoy.”

Justin feels Band and Archery Club were his two major interests at Dunne, besides academics. And he truly was interested in the people. “I loved it here. The diversity has been wonderful, and I don’t mean just the racial diversity, but the very different types of people here of all cultures and religions. It’s very familial. It’s been great!”

His off campus interests include the game Dungeons and Dragons; tabletop roleplaying games; video games; reading; doing math for fun; listening and creating music, “And watching comically bad films!”

He has so many good memories of high school he can’t pick out one to highlight, but says his junior retreat was something special, as was the band and choir trip to Colorado last year.  Senior year included playing at the state championship football game, where his friends on the team included Travis Cook, Micah Simon, Dailen Sutton and Jared Alex – all of whom, like Justin, will be attending college on scholarships.

Justin was aware he was among the top students in his class but was surprised that he ended up as the 2015 valedictorian. “I guess the six AP courses I took this past semester pushed me to the top,” he said, admitting he was weary from the six AP exams he recently took. He took 11 AP classes over all,  included Human Geography; World Geography; US History; Government; Microeconomics; Calculus; Statistics; Biology; Physics; English Language and Composition; English Literature and Composition. Should he score well on the AP exams, he could earn college credit at his chosen school, the University of Texas at Dallas located in Richardson. His roommate is also a Falcon: Nick Magnis.

Accepted at all the colleges he applied to, he’s happy to attend a school known for an outstanding math department, which will be his major. Ultimately, he plans to be a math teacher, hopefully at the college level, but he’s not opposed to coming back to Bishop Dunne to teach. “I’ve noticed about every other teacher here is either a Dunne or Notre Dame Graduate,” he says with a smile, “and that’s not a bad thing.” His big brother Cody, Bishop Dunne class of 2013, will be a junior at UTD next year, and like Justin, was his class’s valedictorian. Justin attributes his good grades to his parents’ encouragement. His mother, Michele, is a paralegal and his father, Rick, is a comptroller for a delivery and warehouse company.

Justin hopes his future includes a family with a house and wife and kids. But for his immediate future, this summer, he may end up working at Thorntree Country Club where he’s been employed before. After twelve years of hard work in school, he admits, “I’d be happy just to sleep this summer.” His classmates and teachers will probably tell you he’s earned it.

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