The Memphis District prides itself on the many achievements made by our employees throughout the year. Not only that, but we consider it especially valuable when employees and their family members experience greatness for their hard work outside of the district.
Recently the district had a very special reason to celebrate. Erika Wallace, daughter of M/V Mississippi Machinery Mechanic Ervin Wallace, just graduated from Frederick Douglass Public High School as Valedictorian, with an astounding 4.4 GPA.
In addition to excelling in academics, the valedictorian also participated in the school's Ambassador's Program, the Bowling Team, Future Business Leaders of America, the Book Club, and the National Honor Society.
"I've always had an internal drive and motivation," she added. "I can say that having supportive parents has helped me get to where I am."
She said she found out about her class ranking in the ninth grade, but never focused too much on being top of the class.
"I just continued to do school like I always did, " the recent graduate said. "I've always really liked school and learning new things. I've earned straight A's since the third grade without any real challenges."
While she didn't experience any obstacles throughout most of her student career, she said things started getting stressful during her junior and senior years.
"Things got hectic in eleventh grade because that's when I really started studying for the SAT and ACT," she noted. "Senior year was hard because of the virtual learning employed due to COVID-19. I also started applying for scholarships and to all the colleges I have always wanted to attend (ten of them total). Then I felt the pressure while taking the SAT and ACT."
It looks like her work paid off. She scored a 28 on the ACT the first time and then a 34 the second time. She also received several scholarships, including the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship, a full-tuition academic merit scholarship, and another full-tuition scholarship from St. Louis Washington University.
She applied to and was accepted into all ten universities she applied to, so deciding which one to attend was a little difficult, she said. Ultimately, she decided on St. Louis Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
"I'm undecided on my major but am leaning towards psychology and Spanish," the future college freshman said. "I'm excited to start the next chapter, but I'm really going to miss my family."
The feeling is very mutual when it comes to her father, Ervin Wallace. Her dad made it very clear throughout the interview that he will visit her often, every weekend if he can.
"I'm really going to miss her, and yeah, I'd like her to be closer, but she made her decision – I've always given her the ability to make her own choices," he said. "I've always trusted her and will continue to trust her."
Ervin Wallace is the definition of a proud father. While the interview was conducted over the phone, it was easy to hear the amount of pride and fulfillment he felt when commenting on his daughter's performance.
"I've always been there for her when she needed me," he said. "Always congratulated her when she did well – which was often. Taught her the difference between right and wrong; especially when it came to school. That's one thing I don't play with."
Ervin Wallace said he didn't graduate from high school, but did go back and get his GED.
"I didn't want her to make the same mistakes as me," the mechanic said. "Again, I always let her make decisions for herself. Whatever was right for her, I supported her."
The father describes himself as a stern, old-fashioned, take-care-of-business type of guy.
"I like to have fun, but when it's time to take care of business, it's time to take care of business," he added.
As far as learning and academics are concerned, Ervin Wallace believes everyone can achieve success.
"Everyone is born intelligent," he asserted. "If you have a good support system, you can achieve anything you put your mind to."
Ervin Wallace is not just proud of his daughter, but also said he is very inspired by her.
"I'm very proud of her," he started. "From day one, she's been a blessing. I'm very excited about her future. She started off on one hell of a foot, so I can only imagine what's going to happen in the future. I love her to death. She motivates me to step my game up to be the best dad and person I can be, both personally and professionally. Watching her grow up and achieve everything she has keeps me going."
Erika Wallace is leaving for college in August, and her dad said he will be right there to help her move into the dorms and settle in, even if it is with tears in his eyes.
The Memphis District is ecstatic for both daughter and father for all they've accomplished together. Many thanks to both for sharing this story and serving as a true inspiration to not just those who know her, but also all of us here at the district.