Mya Gonsalves

Mya Gonsalves, the Knox County Career Center's 2019 Student of the Year, poses with Career Center Board President Richard McLarnan after Thursday's senior awards ceremony.

MOUNT VERNON – Mya Gonsalves had a lot of chords.

She carried so many around her neck Thursday, during the Knox County Career Center’s senior awards ceremony, that she had to concentrate on keeping them straight as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

They represented four years of hard work at the Career Center and East Knox High School. She was a math, science, English and social studies honors student, and earned honors diplomas at both schools.

But after Thursday’s ceremony, what left Gonsalves speechless was the golden medal hanging around her neck.

“Student of the Year,” it read.

“It’s crazy,” she said, trying to process the moment.

Gonsalves received the Career Center’s most prestigious honor that night after being selected from a list of 18 candidates. Each candidate went through an interview process after being nominated by their lab instructor. They represented the top students in each of the Career Center’s two-year programs.

Gonsalves, a culinary arts student, said she was shocked to hear her name called.

“Amazing,” she said. “It was insane.”

Of all her accomplishments at East Knox and the Career Center, Gonsalves’ proudest occurred last summer, when she led a team of KCCC culinary arts students to the FCCLA National Culinary Competition in Atlanta. The group placed third in the nation.

The achievement motivated Gonsalves to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a chef. She’ll attend Columbus State University in the fall to continue her culinary arts education, and she thanked the Career Center staff on Thursday for encouraging her to chase her dreams.

“I’ve always wanted to be a chef. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved being in the kitchen, and I kind of just wanted to validate that’s what I wanted to do. And since I’ve gotten here, I’ve just loved it even more,” Gonsalves said.

“The teachers were outstanding. They always put others before themselves and I think that’s really important. They care so much about their students and they make sure, individually, we’re all on track. And I feel like that’s awesome because sometimes you don’t get that one-on-one connection, but I had that with all of my teachers.”

While developing her culinary passion at the Career Center, Gonsalves also played varsity volleyball and softball at East Knox. She’s currently involved in 4-H and routinely works at Kenyon College as a prep cook.

As a high school student, Gonsalves never lacked motivation. She said winning ‘Student of the Year’ will only add fuel to the fire.

“It makes me want to push even harder at what I want to do, and I feel like this was just a step to the big future, the big thing,” Gonsalves said. “I just want to keep going. It’s definitely motivated me.”

Gonsalves was one of many Career Center students, faculty and alumni who were honored at Thursday’s graduation ceremony. The Class of 2019 earned over $200,000 and volunteered more than 3,800 hours in advanced placement work experiences, Career Center Director Jeff Lavin said. The class also collectively earned over $868,000 in scholarships, which were announced during the ceremony.