Despite tragedy, Mallory Gill stayed the course to be Brusly’s 2023 valedictorian

Mallory Gill’s valedictorian speech

BRUSLY – Roughly five months ago, Mallory Gill and her family’s world was turned upside down. Through the haze of the tragedy that Dec. 31, 2022 brought, they were able to experience some sunshine.

Gill graduated as one of Brusly High’s three valedictorians on May 11. It was a ray of sunshine for a family that experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Mallory is the older sister of Caroline Gill, one of the teenagers killed in a New Year’s Eve crash in Brusly.

Former Addis police officer David Cauthron was reportedly speeding while pursuing Tyquel Zanders, who had allegedly broken into his parents’ home and stolen their car. Cauthron was on LA 1 when investigating officials say he failed to brake when passing through a red light and smashed into another vehicle, killing Caroline Gill and Maggie Dunn.

Mallory is two years older than her sister, one of her biggest supporters.

“I didn’t go into high school with that goal (valedictorian),” Mallory said. “I think the second semester of my junior year, I had my transcript for something I was applying for, and I realized that I was (No.) 1 out of 160 or whatever the number of the class was at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh, I can actually be this.’ So I remember telling her (Caroline) that, and she was like, ‘OK, well, now that you’ve shown me that, you can’t not be it’.”

During her valedictorian speech, Mallory Gill talked to her classmates about bittersweet moments that have helped shape them while also providing complex emotions.

Gill said finding out she was the valedictorian was a bittersweet moment.

Mallory Gill

“As soon as I got the news, I was very excited, but it was also great sorrow,” she recalled. “That was kind of what it (speech) was based off. My last semester was very bittersweet because your last semester of high school is supposed to be joyful and exciting and you’re ready to start the next chapter of your life but for me, it was more having to take on this all without my best friend.”

Mallory explained that her other siblings were 10 years younger than her, so that drew her and Caroline closer. They shared a room. They often went to the same school, rode together to school, and had dinner together every night.

“It was definitely very special, and I’m very grateful I got to have such a close bond,” she said. “I know that sometimes siblings that close, it drives a wedge between them but that was definitely not the case.”

Mallory said she was at work the day of the accident. She said panic set in when she found out that Caroline and Maggie had been in an accident. She recalled what happened afterwards as something similar to a movie.

“Finding out about all of it felt like a fever dream,” she detailed. “I really don’t remember that much of December 31. It sounds very cliche but kind of straight out of a movie. My family was lucky enough to have so much support from the entire community. I can imagine that recovering from this would have been so much different if we hadn’t had that.”

Mallory returned to school after the Christmas break on Jan. 10 and had to adjust to the scary reality of not having her sister.

“I was terrified to drive to school by myself because I don’t have Caroline anymore or walking to school by myself because I don’t have Caroline anymore but I was blessed,” she said. “Brusly High was an amazing, amazing environment.”

Gill thanked Brusly Principal Walt Lemoine, Assistant Principal Jason Lemoine and other administrators for their support. She mentioned Jason Lemoine provided her with an area with a desk to work if she felt uncomfortable going into the classroom.

The accident not only changed Mallory’s life emotionally but it also altered her future path. She planned to pursue a career in the medical field before, but she has other plans now.

“Before the accident, I had intended on moving away for undergrad, probably, UL or Southeastern and majoring in chemistry and like a pre-med major and then moving away to go into the medical field, probably ULM for pharmacy school,” she explained. “The accident kind of made me realize that I didn’t want to spend eight-plus years of my life preparing for a job that who knows if I’d really be happy doing. I was definitely very conflicted and really wasn’t sure what path I wanted to go on. I can remember it was two days before the accident. I saw that I’d gotten a $52,000 scholarship from LSU. I told Caroline about it. She was like ‘OK, well, now you got to go there because that’s the most money you’re gonna be offered.’ After the accident, I kind of decided that I’m going to LSU and majoring in business.”

The teen said her parents played a huge role in helping her deal with a challenging situation.

“I know it’s hard to go in the house every day, there’s an empty bedroom,” she stated. “It’s a very hard adjustment but I will say that they did it in the right way. They recognized all of our feelings, they guided us through those feelings. Whenever valedictorian was slipping from me at some point because I was unable to catch up, they let me know that it is okay if I didn’t want that anymore. If I did want it, it’s okay to want it. I wouldn’t have been able to reach that goal had they not assisted me emotionally like that.”

Left to right: Jason Gill, Mallory Gill, Kim Elliott, Jason Elliott

Gill says that while her sister isn’t physically with her, she still carries her memory with her. That included the night she reached the goal her sister pushed her to.

As her mother Kim explained, the cross she wore on graduation night was made with flowers from Caroline and Maggie’s funeral. It was made for her tassel, but she hung it on her medal.

“Someone I grew up with made it for her and brought it to her the day before graduation,” said Kim.

“We are all so proud of Mallory’s accomplishments. Her ability to achieve her goals is a true testament to her strength and character. I have no doubt our sweet Caroline is smiling,” she said.

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