Fifty-four seniors will graduate from J.Z. George High School on Friday.

The commencement ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.

The J.Z. George Class of 2019 valedictorian is Michael Athan Shute, who finished with a 94.27 average. JaKayla Phillips is salutatorian with a 93.56 average.

The son of Eddie and Tasha Shute of Carrollton, the 17-year-old valedictorian plans to attend the University of Mississippi, where he will study homeland security. He said he made his college choice because “it’s the only school that has homeland security as a major.”

Michael Athan Shute


At J.Z. George, Shute was a member of the baseball team and the Beta Club and played on the football and track teams for a year.

Shute said some of his best high school memories were in the classroom of coach Will Rodgers.

“He made people laugh,” Shute said. “He wasn’t just a teacher who was serious all the time. He taught and had fun with it.”

What Shute said he will miss most about high school, however, is playing baseball. He was a member of the team throughout all of his four years of high school.

Shute’s honors and awards include the National Society of the Daughter of the American Revolution award, STAR student, and Academic Merit, Delta Honors and 1848 scholarships.

Like her classmate, Phillips plans to attend the University of Mississippi in the fall.

JaKayla Phillips


The 18-year-old salutatorian will major in social studies education with a minor in foreign language — “I haven’t decided which one yet,” she said.

The daughter of Cassandra and Rodgenall Phillips of Vaiden, Phillips said she plans to be a teacher.

At J.Z. George, she was a member of Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, Art Club and Beta Club.

Phillips said what she enjoyed most about high school was her classmates and teachers.

Her favorite high school memories, however, happened in art class.

“I have a lot of memories there, but I love painting, so some of my favorite paintings come from art class,” Phillips said.

Some of her awards and honors include highest average in art, the Daughters of the American Revolution Citizenship Award, a Beta Club award, and scholarships to Ole Miss including an academic scholarship, Delta Honors and the 1848 scholarship.

As graduation approaches, Phillips had some words of encouragement. She said “to not be afraid of failure, because without failure you can’t succeed.”

Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or

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