Making a comeback; Montgomery Co. teen's emotional moment caught on camera

Senior Mackenzie Mathis feared she would never get into college

Montgomery County – As the saying goes, a setback is a setup for a comeback. One New River Valley teen is proving the saying to be true. Mackenzie Mathis, a senior at Auburn High School recently received her acceptance letter from Radford University. In a video filmed by her father, she can be seen emotionally reading the letter, crying tears of joy.

"Congratulations, it is our pleasure to offer you admission to Radford university to the class of 2024," Mackenzie read.

It was her defining moment: getting a college acceptance letter to her number one pick.

"It was probably the purest moment of joy from her I've ever seen from her in her entire life," said her dad, Jay Mathis.

To truly understand why she's so emotional, requires going back to the beginning of high school.

"My first two years of high school was just anxiety and depression," Mackenzie said.

The then 14-year-old Auburn High Schooler was diagnosed with a learning disability, depression and anxiety.
Jay explained she was struggling to pass her classes.

"Freshman to sophomore of high school, a lot of issues," Jay said. "Issues with some bullying, anxiety. A lot of challenges. She's always had a hard time learning. She's had to work really hard. Freshman to sophomore year did not go well."

"I just never really wanted to focus on my work because I just gave up on myself," Mackenzie said. "I told myself that you are never going to be able to do good in life. "

Two years ago, Mackenzie and her parents thought college was no longer an option.

"We just didn't think she was going to be able to dig herself out of that hole," Jay said.

But, Mackenzie dug.

"What really changed it was really my parents and the teachers at auburn. What I love about Auburn is they have teachers that will not give up on you," Mackenzie said.

That includes her cheer coaches and her team. With them, Mackenzie was able to change things around.

She worked hard in school to raise her grade point average, even often staying after school for tutoring, and is now a co-captain on the cheerleading squad.

"It was a huge blessing to have them," Mackenzie said. She credits her teammates and coaches, who are also teachers, for part of her success.

Radford University is Mackenzie's number one pick. Her mother was a graduate which only adds to Mackenzie's admiration of the school. Jay said they were excited to receive the letter in the mail and held it for hours before giving it their daughter. "We knew this was going to be a big moment for her," Jay said.

Mackenzie said she was terrified to open Radford's letter. She was already emotional just receiving it.

"I thought well, I'm going to get rejected from one of my top schools," Mackenzie said.

Radford had other plans. Her acceptance is a sign of progress, growth and success in overcoming great obstacles – a moment of pride for the entire Mathis family.

"It's been a progression of her saying, 'I'm going to be successful', and it was a joy to watch. We are very proud of her," Jay said.


Mackenzie's dad posted that video on Twitter, and it's received a lot of love. It even caught the attention of Radford University. Officials from the university said they are so happy to welcome Mackenzie to the Radford family.

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