Early College High School Celebrates Graduation

Early College HS salutatorian celebrates graduation
By: Todd Martin
The second-ever graduating class of the Killeen ISD Early College High School helped build the foundation of a state-honored program, then they missed out on the end of their senior year celebrations.
But, they never lost their optimism.
The top graduates of the 230 Early College High School Class of 2020 reminded their peers in pre-recorded speeches launched virtually Friday that the arduous effort of combining college and high school would be worth it.
“We have all overcome to achieve,” said class salutatorian Madelynn Spear, crediting her classmates for helping give birth to a new kind of school with outstanding spirit and tenacity.
Class valedictorian Andrea Cavanagh also pointed out the group’s strength in the midst of uncertainty, born in the throes of 9/11 and graduating from high school during global pandemic.
Quoting Principal Kathleen Burke, the top graduate said they all knew that the road they chose wouldn’t be easy, but would be worth it. “No one can take away the hard work and the memories.”
Cavanagh named several specific students, illustrating the close-knit nature of the small, academically focused school that splits space between a repurposed middle school on Fort Hood and the Central Texas College campus.
“We ended here,” she said, “because we knew how bright our future could be.”
Both top graduates included light moments in their addresses. Spear suggested that no class has enjoyed such a long “senior skip day.”
Cavanagh concluded, “As we head off, or in this case log off, I’d like to remind you that grades don’t matter at a certain point because you can’t put a grade on the passion and memories you hold later in life.”
The virtual graduation ceremony included music, graphics, video and still images that recalled the school’s past year. Student names were professionally announced in conjunction with slides featuring senior portraits and student-chosen quotes.
Shortly before the graduation ceremony launched on KISD-TV and KWTX-TV’s CW affiliate, Spear put on her cap and gown and salutatorian stole and posed with her family in the front yard for some photos.
Next, the family joined loved ones on a zoom conference call and then watched the graduation ceremony together.


“I was just messaging with friends last night,” said Spear. “We were talking about how we’re graduating tomorrow. It’s shocking. I think it hit me when we turned in our laptops and we got to see the teachers’ faces again. I thought this might be the last time I get to see them.”
“It’s jarring,” she said of coming to the end of four years of high school, finishing near the top of the class and now bidding farewell in a most unorthodox manner. “It’s hard to know how to feel. I’m grateful, excited.”