OCA top 2: Keep striving for top spots

Odessa Collegiate Academy top 2 students Pranay Patel, 17, and Sarah Hubbard, 18, pose for a photo in their caps and gowns. Both are going into pre-med at the University of Texas at Austin. Patel is the valedictorian and Hubbard is the salutatorian. (Photo Courtesy of James Ramage)

Emerging as the top two students at Odessa Collegiate Academy wasn’t easy for valedictorian Pranay Patel and salutatorian Sarah Hubbard.

“They are very diligent with their studies, staying on top of things,” Principal James Ramage said. “Just a lot of effort being number one and number two. The top 10 were separated by 23/100ths of a point between number one and No. 10, so there was a little bit of surprise that they were valedictorian and salutatorian just because the top 10 were so close.”

The senior class has 98 students.

Patel and Hubbard are both going to University of Texas at Austin and plan to enter the medical field. Patel and Hubbard are going into the pre-med track. He’s leaning toward becoming a surgeon and she hopes to become a doctor and anesthesiologist.

Hubbard said she didn’t know what ranks were until after she got hers freshman year. Ever since then, she’s been working on moving it up every year.

Patel, 17, has been working on being in the top 10 since he was younger.

“My parents have always had high expectations of me and I’ve also had those same expectations of myself. I’ve always wanted to be high top 10 in high school,” he added.

Hubbard said she and Patel got to be closer friends as juniors and that’s when they started having a friendly competition.

“I was normally three and he was normally 2 … and then we were just competing for the top spots after that,” said Hubbard, who is 18.

Patel said they both knew they were top students, so they both believe that they both deserve the top two spots.

“It was friendly competition and we were pushing each other to move up. We both wanted to move up,” Hubbard said.

She added that she was “really shocked” when she found out she was the salutatorian.

“Of course I was excited,” Hubbard said.

Patel said he was No. 2 all the way up to January.

Hubbard said the idea of graduating is exciting.

“The closer it’s getting, the more nervous I’m getting,” Hubbard said.

She added that it’s hard to believe she’s moving into real life on her own, away from Odessa and her family.

“But it’s exciting to move on to the next chapter of our lives and finally work towards the career that I’ve been working for the whole time I’ve been at this school,” Hubbard said.

Patel said he feels the same way.

“I’m excited, but at the same time I’m scared to become an adult and have more responsibilities,” he said.

The advice they would give younger students who want to get into the top 10 or top 2 is keep working hard.

“I’d say always strive for more. Never settle down if you want to be in the top because there’s always someone else that’s waiting … Work your hardest, study,” Patel said.

Hubbard agreed.

“Work hard from the very beginning and you can never let that progress stop. A lot of people that I knew were in the top 10 and then junior year came and they just stopped. They slacked off on their work, so if you’re striving to become (one of the best), you have to keep pushing, even though it does get harder, keep pushing and just spend a lot of your free time studying,” Hubbard said.

They both said the top 10 students are very close. Not much even separates the top 30, Patel and Hubbard said.

“It’s a very competitive school,” Hubbard added.

Patel and Hubbard have gone to Odessa Collegiate Academy all four years. They both earned associate degrees in biology from Odessa College.

“I thought it was a great experience,” Patel said. “I chose the school to get my associate’s when I graduate.”

Hubbard said she also chose the school for its focus on academics.

“Some kids don’t really want to come here. But I think it’s good. It’s a smaller school so you get to know your peers a lot better, which makes it easier with the classes you’re taking. You have good support from everyone around you. People are like scared to come here because (they think) it’s just academics, but I think there were a lot of extracurriculars and events that we had that made it fun for the student body,” Hubbard added.

Both are in National Honor Society, Student Council, SAT Club, Chess Club, Academic Decathlon and Prom Committee among others. Patel said they have also tried to start basketball and volleyball clubs.

Ramage said he is looking forward to following the careers of Patel and Hubbard.

“(We) just couldn’t be more proud,” Ramage added.