The University of Texas Permian Basin STEM Academy celebrated its top students in its first senior class Friday with a breakfast in the foyer of the Science and Technology Building at UTPB.
Because the class has only 50 students, Principal Cody Griffin said the top five were chosen instead of the traditional top 10. Plans are to have about 66 students per grade level, so Griffin doesn’t know if they will get to a top 10.
He expressed thanks to UTPB for allowing STEM to use the building.
Graduation will be at 7 p.m. May 28 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.
The top students are: No. 1 Kylee Mesa; No. 2, Anah Diaz; No. 3, Jesse Davidson; No. 4, Brylee Smithee; and No. 5, Tye Sikes.
“… As a principal walking into an organization where nothing had been developed and nothing had been set, creating all those traditions that first year has been a very memorable experience for me and I hope it’s been for the kids, too …,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he has gotten to know the senior class well and can list off their many achievements.
“… From my perspective as a principal, knowing each one of them and being able to share those stories with them every time I get to talk with them, that to me means a lot as a public educator,” Griffin said.
Each student was able to bring two adults with them. They also received their cords.
Matt Davidson, deputy chief of the Odessa Police Department and Jesse Davidson’s father, said he and his wife, Shannon, who is the STEM superintendent, are very proud of Jesse. He is graduating a year early because of the extra work he has put in.
The Davidsons have four sons and his dad said Jesse is an example to his brothers.
“I didn’t really expect to be in the top five,” Jesse Davidson said. “I always wanted to be, but because I graduated early I didn’t expect to be so ahead of all my senior classmates. I just didn’t expect it. And graduating early has been a real experience. I’ve been taking summer courses, which has made me busy year-round. But I don’t regret any of it. … “
He added that he feels what he has accomplished will give him a head start in life.
Davidson, 17, plans to attend UTPB and study mechanical engineering.
He plans to go into the military and his end goal is to be an aerospace engineer.
“… It’s just always been interesting to me. I also want to be a pilot … I actually have an internship right now with DPS helicopters. I go over to Midland sometimes and go talk to them at their airport and they show me around their aircraft. All the pilots are very nice to me,” Davidson said.
The class valedictorian, Mesa, 18, is heading to UT Austin to study astronomy.
“I’ve been interested in space since like third grade and my love for science has just developed over time,” Mesa said.
She added that she was “very shocked” to be the valedictorian of her class.
“I started out as a No. 9 last year, so I didn’t think there would be any chance of me getting even in the top five. But it is something that I hoped for, at least in middle school,” Mesa said.
She began attending STEM Academy in her second semester of eighth grade. She likes it because it’s centered on science, technology, engineering and math, which are subjects she’s interested in, and it offers project-based learning.
“… There’s a lot of unique activities I get to do here that I wouldn’t get to do that other schools,” Mesa said.
Ultimately, she plans to earn a doctorate and study at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
Diaz, 17, was pleased to be named salutatorian.
“I think it’s pretty exciting. I know me and the other students have worked very hard to get here, so I’m really glad that we can be like acknowledged for those accomplishments,” she said.
Diaz plans to attend UTPB and go into pre-med with the objective of becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Graduating high school, Diaz said, is kind of scary because she doesn’t know what’s next. But she’s going to UTPB so it is familiar territory.
“I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Diaz said.
Sikes, 17, said graduating is a big step toward his future. He plans to attend UTPB and study mechanical engineering.
“It’s been a great experience,” Sikes said of being at STEM. “I met like some of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”
He added that he’s close to all his classmates, as well.
Smithee said she can’t believe graduation is almost here.
“I feel like I just started at STEM when they first opened and I just think it’s a really exciting time,” she said.
Smithee, 17, will attend UTPB to get her basics and then head to medical school.
Being in the top 5, she said, is crazy.
“… We started when we were freshmen. You don’t realize how important it is and then you’re glad that you did good whenever you didn’t really know what it all meant,” Smithee said.