Tragedies didn’t derail Ocoee senior’s drive

McKenzy Walker has received college admission letters from 10 major colleges, and the number continues to rise each week.

Letters of offers and acceptance are flooding McKenzy Walker’s mailbox and email.
Letters of offers and acceptance are flooding McKenzy Walker’s mailbox and email.
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Some people cower in the face of adversity, hoping to avoid all the difficulty and pain that can come with it — and others thrive.

McKenzy Walker is in the second group of people.

Walker, a senior at Ocoee High School, has had her share of trauma in her 18 years, but she never allowed that to keep her from succeeding in the classroom, in multiple sports and in life.

Walker has consistently earned all A’s on her report card — ever since kindergarten. She applied to numerous colleges and has been accepted to nine — many with scholarships — and likely will hear from several more.

She started her athletic path when she was 4 and has excelled on the softball diamond and on the volleyball court. In her four years at Ocoee High, she played seven sports.


Walker’s childhood was fraught with emotional distress. She didn’t have much of a relationship with her birth father growing up because he was in and out of jail, she said. She saw him once when she was 4 and remembers seeing him again when he was on work release.

“We don’t see each other that much,” she said. “But then I remember that some kids don’t get to see their dad at all.”

She endured an angry stepfather when she was about 6. She persevered in school when her mother battled melanoma, thyroid cancer and the serious side effects of a brown recluse spider bite. In 2013, Walker’s grandparents died and the family lived through a house fire. She lived with the fear of “what if” when her brother and sister were deployed to the same area of Africa around 2016.

Five years ago, just before she was leaving home to go to school and take a test, Walker discovered her dad, Lincoln Davis, after he went into cardiac arrest. He survived but not without complications that affected the entire family.

Her aunt and uncle both recently died of cancer.

McKenzy Walker received numerous honors at her fifth-grade awards banquet.

“Even though that stuff has happened to me, I feel like it definitely could have been worse,” she said.

A tattoo near her right collarbone — 999 — is to remind her of the Bible verse from Matthew 18:12: “He left the 99 to rescue me.”

Through it all, Walker has remained steadfast in her academics and earned excellent grades. She was named a Spring Lake Elementary School Dreamer and Doer in fifth grade, and she read so many books at school that the librarian donated the leftovers to Walker. She said she helped her first- and third-grade teachers grade other students’ homework. She received many awards in school, including a first place in the Modern Woodmen speech contest.

In her senior year, she is juggling honors and AP classes, Student Government Association, school sports and a 20- to 30-hour work week.

Walker’s dream is to study psychology and neurosurgery in college.

“I retain things; I have a photographic memory,” Walker said. “I always have had the mindset of, ‘I have to keep going.’ I hate studying; homework is the worst. I try to get everything done within those eight hours of school just so I don’t have to come home and do it.”

McKenzy Walker has kept all of her letters of offers and admission.

Adding to her schedule was the decision to take French, American Sign Language and Spanish 2 through Florida Virtual School.

Sports and activities have been a big part of Walker’s life since before she started elementary school. She started cheering when she was 4. From age 6 to her sophomore year of high school, she enjoyed playing softball as catcher or outfielder. In sixth grade, she tackled track and volleyball, excelling as an outside hitter.

In her essay that accompanied her college applications, Walker wrote about her senior year volleyball season.


The Ocoee teen has received many college acceptance letters in her mailbox and email. So far, she can choose between Jacksonville University, Florida Southern College, Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southern University, Arkansas University, University of Alabama, Ohio State University, Ole Miss, Clemson and Montana. She’s still waiting to hear from Florida State, UF, Tennessee and Georgia.

Many of the schools have offered scholarship money, and the amounts will factor into Walker’s decision. She said she would be happy going to any of these schools.

Her mother, Leyia Davis, is in awe of her resilience.

“I don’t know how she pushed through with tragedies in her life, but it’s like her focus is unstoppable,” Davis said. “I can’t say that I couldn’t done what she’s done.”


As I walk into the gym I once loved, I reminisce about the old smell of the building and the sounds of laughter from me and my teammates. I always looked forward to playing volleyball in my senior year.

But this year is different. My teammates from previous years don't play anymore, and I'm the outcast now. From being captain for multiple years to being a bench rider my senior year, I now dread the sport I once couldn't stop talking about.

Each year I always won academic awards for keeping a high GPA while attending practices three to five days a week with two games and sometimes even three days. The same coach who saw my potential freshman year seems to not even notice I'm at every practice and every single game trying to prove I'm good enough to play like I used to — just to catch the coach's eye.

McKenzy Walker’s sports poster.

Putting on the jersey and praising the No. 9 seems to have become a chore instead of a reward. I realized I hated the sport I once loved. However, I never lost my focus on school. Though I spent all my time in that gym, my schoolwork was always a priority. On the team I was once a leader, and now just the "extra person." I spent hours trying to perfect my craft, and four years later, I at first thought it was for nothing, but now I know it was all for the right reason.

This was once a "terrible" moment in high school for me, but this just pushed me 10 times harder academically. As I began to read through college applications, a light began to shine. I realized how much I could accomplish outside of that gym.

Volleyball used to be the word and sport that would define me as a person. Now it's just something I did. My smarts and good grades define me as so much more than an athlete. It defines me as a hard worker, a determined student and simply a girl with dreams further than a pro athlete. I realized I wanted to be a surgeon and that I wanted to help people in ways some people can't offer. I want to remain on my feet and be hands-on to directly help people and/or their families and friends

I chose to take this career path when I was not only in and out of the hospital when my stepdad had a heart attack a few years ago. It started as a normal morning when my mom called out to my stepdad but there was no response. She told me to go check on him and I found him lifeless on our back porch.

 I screamed for help, and as she got down next to him, it was then my decision to get help. I ran two doors down to a neighbor who just moved in one week prior and she came to help with no questions. I called 911 and she sat with my mom to begin chest compressions. During this whole incident, the only thing crossing my mind was being late to school. So I called my sister-in-law to pick me up and bring me to school because I knew I had a test that day and, of course, volleyball practice right after school.

After this experience, my eyes broadened. When I think of the tears my once favorite sport had brought me, I remember I'm a much more caring and helpful person who has always put others' needs before my own. I'm a dedicated student-athlete who has never given up whether I was a first-string player or a bench rider; I realized that applied to me inside the classroom as well.



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