PHS top 2 worked for their rankings

Permian High School valedictorian Hannah Douglas is heading to UT Austin where she will double major in the Plan II Honors Program and environmental engineering. She plans to attend law school after that. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Permian High School’s top two have been working toward landing at the top of their class since middle school.

Hannah Douglas is the valedictorian and Rodbert Velasco is the salutatorian.

Douglas, 18, is the daughter of Jennifer and Gary Douglas. She will be double majoring in the Plan II Honors Program and environmental engineering and attend law school after that.

She is an AP Scholar with Honors, a National Math and Science Initiative AP Environmental Science winner, Permian Choir Council president, Permian Production Theater Company vice president, National Honor Society president, National Art Honor Society treasurer, Business Professionals of America vice-president, junior board president 21-22, band (serving two years as the head drum major), in the PHS Academic Hall of Fame, PHS Hall of Fame, and recognized as homecoming queen, senior class favorite, and Ms. PHS.

Douglas said getting to No. 1 is an huge honor.

Always told she was smart, Douglas didn’t think much about it until her older sister, Halie Douglas, graduated No. 7 in her class. She thought seven was the number to beat.

“A little sibling rivalry kind of pushed me through,” Douglas said.

She looks at school as a game.

“It should be fun and it should be like a little task to complete because I understand that there are some people in my grade that are way smarter than me or have tried way harder. But at the end of the day, I think where I’ve gotten to comes down to genetics, my hard work and the environment I was born into which is so little of what I control …,” Douglas said.

“… I’ve been blessed into these circumstances,” she added.

Douglas said her teachers and her life experiences have prepared her for post high school life.

“I’m a very involved kid and my involvement with things like choir and band and theater and junior board and the life lessons that I’ve learned there, it’s taught me things that are going to go far beyond a couple of things that I’ve learned in science class,” Douglas said.

She also was sophomore board president.

The Senate encompasses all grade levels and then each grade level is assigned their own board to do specific grade-level tasks. Junior Board set up and fundraised for the prom. The Senior Board works on the senior gift.

Douglas is thrilled to be going on to college.

“I love my friends here and I’m so thankful for the memories going to Odessa, but I’m so excited to go into a different community with diverse mindsets. … How can you know what the world is if you don’t experience it?” she said.

Permian salutatorian Rodbert Velasco will be heading to University of North Texas in the fall to study to become a pharmacist. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Velasco, also 18, plans to attend the University of North Texas and major in chemistry and minor in biology. He intends to become a pharmacist.

He has two sisters, Criselle and Gracielle. Criselle went to UNT and said she “had a really nice time and learned a lot through the professors there.”

Velasco said he was proud two make salutatorian because he worked really hard.

“And I was honestly surprised that I would be No. 2,” he added.

But it wasn’t by accident. He’d been working toward the top 10 since middle school. His parents also made sure he got good grades.

“But I’m grateful for that because I’m here now,” Velasco said.

Graduating, he said, is a little sad.

“But it honestly bought a lot of good memories and I’m glad that I’ll be able to graduate,” Velasco said.

Rodbert is the son of Rhodora and Norberto Velasco Jr. He plans to study chemistry at The University of North Texas to become a pharmacist. A viola player, Velasco served as the orchestra historian and now serves as the orchestra secretary, nominated for the ECISD Awards for Excellence for math, is an AP Scholar, in the Academic Hall of Fame, and is a black belt in Taekwondo being top 10 in the state.

For other students who want to be in the top 10, Velasco said it’s OK not to know what you’re doing at times “because soon enough you’ll find out just through going through the motions,” he said.

He added that he had a lot of friends and a lot of teachers who were willing to help him better understand the material. Velasco said he learned a lot and it better prepared him for college.

At first, he was into music, but he found out after taking a chemistry course his sophomore year that he really enjoyed the subject.

“My parents have always told me that college is pretty important because they also went to college,” Velasco said.