Permian High School lauded its top 10 graduates with a breakfast Wednesday morning in the campus library.
The breakfast comes the morning after the students were introduced to the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees, along with fellow top 10 students from Odessa High School and George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa.
Stephen M. Steen III, No. 8 in the class, has committed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He had a friend a few years ago who went to West Point and told Steen about the benefits and advantages.
His junior year, he received football offers from the Naval Academy and West Point.
“That kind of solidified my idea to attend one of the academies,” said Steen, who has been the Permian varsity quarterback for the past two years. “It was always my dream to go to the Navy, so that was the main reason that I chose it …”
The offer gives him a free education, but he has to commit to serve for five years afterward — something he said doesn’t bother him.
“I’ve told several people this that the military aspect for me excites me more than the academics and the athletic life at the academy. I think I’m more excited to go and serve and kind of live out that adventure than I am for the four years I’ll be at the academy,” Steen said.
He said playing football has taught him leadership and hard work, which can translate to the classroom. Those qualities, he said, will carry him through the academy and stick with him for the rest of his life.
Steen said he plans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps when he graduates.
“After that, we’ll see where life takes us,” he said.
Calyha Brown, 18, was No. 9 her class. Brown plans to attend Prairie View A&M University to study psychology and earn her PhD.
Her friend Braylynn Carrion, 18, is heading to the University of Texas at Austin to study chemistry. Carrion said she also plans to go to graduate school.
Being in the top 10 is something Carrion said she and Brown have worked for since seventh grade. Carrion is No. 7 and Brown is No. 9.
“It’s always been a goal of ours,” Carrion said. “It’s something that nobody else pushed us to do. It’s something that we wanted for ourselves.”
“It’s definitely instilled in us to be the best that we can be and we had a lot of help from friends and teachers,” Brown said.
Carrion said her motivation to be in the top 10 came from her brother, who graduated when she was 7.
“Ever since, I’ve been going to the Permian graduations and seeing the top 10 on stage. It’s given me motivation to try hard and do well in school, so I can be successful one day,” Carrion said.
Brown said it’s a chance for people to see her as more than one thing. She throws shot-put and discus for PHS and got a track scholarship to Prairie View A&M.
“For me, I think it’s just knowing that there are people that look up to me and just knowing that you can be a multi-faceted person. I’m in track and field and also I’m in the top 10,” Brown said. “I just want people to see that you’re not limited to one aspect of your career, or your life, or your future,” Brown said.
Carrion said even though they are going to different schools, they will still be connected and continue supporting each other.
Seventeen-year-old Kayla Owen is No. 4 in the class. She plans to attend the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and major in early childhood education. She then wants to get her master’s degree in educational administration.
Owen said it’s definitely not by chance that she and her peers are in the top 10.
“We’ve all worked really hard for this, since pretty much junior high. … For the most part, it’s the same group of people that we’ve been in the top 10 with every year, so I’m very glad that we ended up making it,” Owen said.
Marissa Williams and Megan Freeman, both 18, are ranked No. 10 and No. 5, respectively.
Williams plans to attend Texas Tech University and study cell and molecular biology while Freeman is going for accounting, although she could change to music.
“It’s a really cool experience (being in the top 10). It’s something I’ve wanted for the longest time, just being in the top 10 over the years because I was in the top 10 last year. It means a lot. My mom has an associate (degree) and my dad just has a high school degree, so I’m the first in my family to be top 10. …,” Williams said.
Freeman said her ranking shows her hardworking mindset.
Permian High School College Counselor Jennifer Perkins said this group of top 10 students is probably one of the better ones the school has had in a while.
“I think they’ve between the 10 of them they’ve all volunteered over 1,400 hours. They’re all being awarded Texas Scholars tomorrow night (May 17). Five of them are academic hall of fame, which means they scored a 1,270 or higher on their SATs,” Perkins said.
“A couple of them graduated this past weekend (from Odessa College) with their associate degrees and the scholarship total is over $700,000, just in this top 10. All of them are staying in the state, except for one. Steve is going to the Naval Academy, so it’s exciting for me. They’ve taken the most rigorous classes we have to offer. … They’re all leaders. I look around and … there’s not one student in here that hasn’t earned their keep at Permian. It’s a phenomenal class, for sure. They’re a good group of kids,” Perkins added.