The top two Ellison High School Class of 2023 seniors set to graduate are members of the two-time national champion Ellison Emeralds dance team.
Valedictorian Olivia Farmer and salutatorian Kaylee Parker have managed four years of intense physical training to perform at events and compete at the highest levels of dance competition while completing rigorous coursework and finishing at the top of a large class.
“It’s a big relief,” said Farmer. “It was a lot of stress and long days. I’m ready for the next step.”
The top-ranked Ellison senior attended Saegert Elementary School and Liberty Hill Middle School before moving on to high school. The past two years, she has started her days at Temple College’s Texas Bioscience Institute.
The hard-working student left her house every morning by 6:30, completed college-level, STEM courses at TBI and then headed back to Ellison, where she normally ended her day with dance practice, that stretched to 6 or later.
She has maintained the No. 1 spot in her class since her freshman year. She earned an associate degree from Temple College.
“I’m proud of my class,” said Farmer, who didn’t want to give away her plans for her valedictory speech, which is tailor-made for her EHS classmates.
She is on her way to the University of Houston to study mechanical engineering.
“Shocking,” is how Parker described how she felt at landing at No. 2 in her class. “I didn’t think I would ever make it.”
She spent most of her schooling at Florence ISD with a class of 71 students before making a move to Ellison as a freshman, when that class was about 10 times larger than the one she came from.
Parker knew she wanted to be an Ellison Emerald and this year was an officer on the highly-ranked team.
“I found out I was in the top 10 my junior year, then I found out I was No. 3,” she said, “and I really wanted the second spot.”
She praised the opportunities she found at KISD, where she took a full load of dual credit and Advanced Placement courses.
When she addresses her class, Parker said she will congratulate her peers, recall the strange days of COVID restrictions, the excitement of getting back to in-person school and the joy of getting through it all.
“We learned to be determined, to work hard and to be persistent.”
She is going to the University of Texas at Austin, where she already made the Texas Pom Squad.
Ellison High School graduation is set for Saturday, May 27 at 7 p.m. at the Bell County Expo Center.