Allison McCracken has wanted to be the valedictorian since she was in elementary school.
She remembered coming home when she was around 8 years old and crying over getting an A-minus. As she got older, she tried to balance the impulse to hang out with friends with the work she needed to keep her grades high.
Bonneville High School doesn't have valedictorians, so graduating summa cum laude with straight A's during high school is as close as she could get. When asked what her graduation message would have been, if there had been a ceremony and she had been the valedictorian, she paused for a few seconds.
"I think it would be that we worked hard. We did our best. We survived a pandemic in high school, so we can do anything," McCracken said.
Graduating with those honors an impressive feat for any student, especially one who is legally blind.
McCracken was born with complete achromatopsia — color blindness. While most cases of color blindness mean the loss of some shades of vision, McCracken was born without any of the cones normally used to detect color. She has very little depth perception and strong lights wash out most of the details of the world, forcing her to wear sunglasses much of the time.
"I've been told by doctors that it looks like grayscale and I just see in shades, but to me it's normal," McCracken said.
Saralou Colson was the guidance counselor who worked with McCraken when she started at Bonneville High School. Teachers provided McCraken with books and papers in larger print, which helped the letters stand out for her. For things written on the board or shown on a projector, she used her phone camera or a special magnifier device to zoom in.
McCracken said she felt self-conscious sometimes about using those devices during class, but other students had always been supportive of her.
For the past two years, she has been a member of Bonneville's Hope Squad, the district's suicide prevention task force comprised of high school students. McCracken was one of the 40 students selected by her peers as a student they felt they could confide in and she was trained to spot warning signs.
Colson had not been McCracken's counselor since freshman year but said that her selection for that effort made perfect sense.
"The fact she was nominated for that just speaks volumes to her character. Students trust her and they know that she wants to help them," Colson said.
McCracken has also competed in ballroom dancing contests during high school and planned to compete this spring at the U.S. National Amateur Dancesport Championships held at Brigham Young University before the event was canceled.
Over the summer McCracken plans to keep working part-time boxing and shipping materials for Expressions Vinyl in Shelley. In the fall she'll be attending Utah State University, with a partial scholarship and a major in psychology.
"If I see someone struggling, I love figuring out how help them, and I think psychology gives you the tools to understand the people who aren't as well understood. I don’t want to live my life and not touch anyone else's life. I want to help people," McCracken said.