Early College HS Valedictorian, Salutatorian

Top ECHS grads celebrate Class of 2020
By: Todd Martin
This year’s top graduate from Killeen ISD’s Early College High School admits there were times she wondered why she entered such a unique and rigorous program, but she learned a lot about keeping an open mind.
The school’s second-ever graduating class may have the first one beat in terms of unique circumstances after ending senior year at spring break due to a global pandemic.
Early College HS Valedictorian Andrea Cavanagh
“My approach to high school was always to keep an open mind,” said Andrea Cavanagh, set to graduate No. 1 in the Early College High School, a school that combines high school with the first two years of college.
“There were times I wished I went to a normal high school,” she said, “but I think I thrived. Getting to know classmates and all the people who supported me was very unique. It was really like a family.”
Without traditional outlets such as athletics, Cavanagh said she embraced the opportunity to try things that she wasn’t drawn to naturally. She probably would not have chosen speech, journalism club or a summer pre-calculus class, but all three motivated her.
She also completed two political internships with Bell County, competed with the Central Texas College math and engineering club and participated in theater and the Killeen Youth Advisory Commission.
What she will remember most, she said, is a highly-supportive, close-knit learning environment. “We were able to know everyone and Mrs. Burke kept us so well-connected.”
The daughter of Edward Cavanagh and Pavlina Svanovska attended Brookhaven Elementary School and Rancier Middle School before going to Early College High School, a partnership between KISD and CTC.
She expected she would move on to a larger university, but instead is leaning toward Dartmouth College, which boasts the smallest class size among Ivy League schools. “I really fell in love with the small campus feel,” she said.
She plans to study chemical engineering and wants to make pharmaceuticals more accessible to those who need them.
Early College HS Salutatorian Madelynn Spear
When Maddie Spear finished eighth grade and entered the KISD Early College High School, finishing at the top of the class was not her expectation.
The relatively small campus with its close-knit community and strong supportive principal, teachers and family drove the determined student to No. 2 in her class.
“Just being in that environment, surrounded by like-minded people pushes you to do better,” she said. “My teachers, friends and family helped me through the late nights. It was a network of support.”
The daughter of Jonathan Spear and Anna Adam, both educators, attended Cedar Valley Elementary School and Liberty Hill Middle School before entering Early College High School.
On top of performing at such a high level in a rigorous academic setting, Spear stayed highly active in the community through the city of Killeen Youth Advisory Commission, community theater and lots of volunteerism. She was also Student Council president and National Honor Society vice president at her school.
Though she has lived in the same house in Killeen since she was born and has never seen “real snow,” she is headed to Wellesley College, a prestigious women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts.
“It is intimidating,” she said, “but I think Early College prepared me, even though they don’t say y’all. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Looking toward addressing her class, Spear said she would remind her peers they helped in building a new tradition and did it with style. “These have been daunting years, but we have shown strong spirit, energy and tenacity.”
The virtual graduation for Early College High School will broadcast at 1 p.m. Friday, May 29 on KISD-TV Spectrum Channel 17 and stream on the KISD website. Both Cavanagh and Spear will deliver pre-recorded addresses.