CTC Awards Degrees

ECHS first seniors earn CTC degrees
By: Todd Martin
They started college early, just after finishing the eighth grade, and on Friday they stepped across the commencement ceremony stage to receive their degrees three weeks before their high school graduation.
The partnership between Central Texas College and Killeen ISD took on something extra in the bright lights of the Bell County Expo arena as 165 high school seniors stepped into the local history books as part of the first class of the Early College High School.
Those students brought to fruition an idea discussed five years ago to provide opportunity for KISD high school students to earn their diploma concurrently with an associate’s degree from CTC.
They will culminate their high school experience in the first KISD Early College High School graduation ceremony set Friday, May 31 at 1 p.m. on the same stage at the Bell County Expo Center.
Killeen ISD Superintendent John Craft, the commencement speaker, praised all the graduating students, highlighted the commitment between the school district and the college and urged the students to push forward with courageous leadership.
Among CTC’s 12 honor graduates earning perfect 4.0 grade-point averages were five of the Early College students. Those included Soichiro Joseph Giancaspro, Mohammad Bilal Khan, Dariel Armando Malave-Perez, Kristine Ann Alfonso-Reyes and Juan Ezequiel Villafana-Milanez.
Lining up in the Expo Center Assembly Hall prior to the ceremony, Khan expressed gratitude for a historic opportunity as part of his school’s first graduating class and as the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
“I just feel so grateful to KISD for doing this for us,” he said. “I’m grateful to be in a community that does this for students. I’m a first-generation college student. This shows my family that coming to America was worth the sacrifice.”
Recalling the school’s first year, when the Early College opened four years ago in a single hallway of the CTC nursing building, he said, “I was scared when it started, but now here we are as a class. The journey was worth it.”
Dariel Malave, also an honor graduate, said it was gratifying to have two years of college finished at age 18. “Those first two years seemed like forever, but the last two years went quickly,” he said.
“I remember in eighth grade talking with my dad about going to this school and we decided it was a good way to get ahead.”
Addressing the 430 CTC seniors set to cross the stage as graduates, Craft urged students to continue to build courage in their lives and to consider life’s inevitable failures as pathways to success.
He told the new graduates to continue to work hard, something he said pays the bills and also builds confidence and he told them to remember that teamwork leads to success. “Our future is bright,” Craft said. “You will go on from here and blaze new trails.”