College Graduation Includes Strong KISD Presence

ECHS valedictorian Alexis Speakman - CTC graduationJust like the past five years, the Central Texas College spring commencement featured a large cast of Killeen ISD high school students earning college degrees.


Even now, several years into a thriving partnership between Killeen ISD and CTC, it is a feat worth celebrating to graduate from high school and college at the same time.


Celebration was the key word, repeated several times during the college graduation ceremony, which brought together an impressive array of 402 students from age 16 to 60 and connected to extension sites around the globe.


For the KISD students, the ceremony at the Cadence Bank Center in Belton was the first of two graduations and for many part of a season of honors and awards.


After celebrating earning an associates of arts degree Friday, the 131 KISD Early College High School seniors and the 64 KISD STEM Academy seniors have nine days of high school left, according to the official school district calendar.


One of those days, Wednesday, May 22, includes the high school graduation ceremony for Early College High School at 7 p.m. back at the Cadence Bank Center.


In addition to the Early College and STEM students, a smaller group of KISD seniors earned industry certifications through a dual credit hospitality program.

CTC graduation - ECHS, STEM Academy

As students dressed in bright blue caps and gowns slowly made their way from the assembly hall into the lobby before marching into the arena, a proud Early College High School Principal Kathleen Burke stood and cheered them on.


In the midst of high-fiving and hugging her students, Burke praised the hard-working new graduates for choosing a more difficult path than required and excelling.


The 131 Early College students who received their degree on Friday represent 60.3 percent of the senior class, an average far above the Texas average for early college high schools at 39 percent.


“This is the reason why kids come to Early College High School,” Burke said.


“This is the first of their graduations and we get to do it all over again on May 22. I’m incredibly proud of them.”


At the school’s recent academic award ceremony, she urged the high-achieving seniors to take a moment to soak it all in.


“We were talking about just enjoy it. All the hard work and their resilience and grit has paid off and now we get to celebrate.”


One of the students celebrating, Alexis Speakman, is the valedictorian of the Early College Class of 2024. She is one of several who graduated from CTC with highest honors.

CTC graduation includes KISD ECHS, STEM


Earlier in the week, she reflected on her decision made back in eighth grade to attend the specialized high school.


Back at Audie Murphy Middle School, Speakman said a group of Early College seniors visited and explained the benefits and challenges of going to college and high school at the same time.


“It was a mix of me and my parents to make that decision,” she said, praising her parents for their support. “I was nervous at first, but I knew it was probably the best option for me.”


“I’m happy with that decision,” Speakman said. “I’ve made good friends. My teachers have helped me be a better person. I was shy and they helped me come out of my shell, be more outgoing and express myself.”


The KISD Early College and STEM Academy graduates, wearing their distinct gold and silver cords, appeared happy to be finished with their first graduation of the season.


“It feels really good. It’s surreal. I’m kind of nervous,” said Alahna Daniels, earning a degree through the STEM Academy.


“I’m so grateful. I feel blessed and grateful I’m able to walk across the stage and say I’m done. It was a lot of work, a lot of sleepless nights.”


“It feels crazy. I didn’t think I was going to be here. I had some doubts. I pulled it through at the end,” said Zakarriyah David, also a STEM Academy senior graduating from CTC.


“This is the beginning of the end. I’m glad I got two years of university done.”


Excited students ready for commencement