This May, I spent a lot of time celebrating graduations. Of course, I am proud of the 485 Lufkin High School graduates. I am proud they are graduating with more than a diploma, but with choices and opportunities. Needless to say, I am also proud of my husband who recently graduated from Lamar University with a master’s degree. What an honor to serve as the commencement speaker and share the joy of his special moment! How wonderful it was to watch my father-in-law smile with pride as he witnessed the manifestation of his dream – for his children to obtain the education that he desperately wanted for himself but didn’t have the resources nor support to achieve.
Perhaps I am most proud of my first cousin, Tijuanwa Akendric Re’Anntinette Harrison, who graduated the same weekend as my husband from Prairie View A&M State University with a master’s degree. You see, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, and she was the second. I was the first to graduate with a master’s degree and now she is the second person. I was the first to graduate with a doctorate, and she assures me that she will be the second.
Changing the trajectory of your family tree is a huge undertaking. Especially if no one from your immediate family has ever graduated from college. I know because I’ve experienced it firsthand. Being a first generation college graduate in your family requires a leap of faith, some days not knowing where you’ll land or how to maneuver through the college matriculation process.
What I love about Lufkin ISD is that students have the opportunity to not only prepare for college but to get a jump start.
- Early College High School: The ECHS program is a partnership between Lufkin High School and Angelina College to provide students the opportunity to complete core college course requirements at no cost.
- Gifted and Talented Program: The GT program at Lufkin High School encompasses World History AP, Art History AP, and English II PAP, combining the curricula into one extended course. In addition, the GT program traditionally takes a trip to New York City to expose the students to the art, music, history, and culture studied in this course.
- Dual Credit: Lufkin High School offers 25 hours of dual credit courses on our home campus and expanding each year. Our teachers serve as adjunct faculty members for Angelina College to provide the college level experience and credit to high school students. Tuition and book fees are the responsibility of the student; however, scholarships are available.
- Advanced Placement: AP curriculum is college-preparatory in nature and requires outside class reading and study. In AP classes, just like in college, students will face challenges and learn new skills. Lufkin High School offers 21 AP courses with AP exams taken each May for college credit.
- STEM Academy: The SFA STEM Academy is a partnership and cohort program between Lufkin High School and Stephen F. Austin State University aimed at enriching the high school experience for students interested in pursuing college study and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The STEM Academy offers students additional STEM elective courses taught on the high school campus, as well as laboratory/field experiences led by SFA professors.
- CTE Program: The CTE ECHS program is a county wide Career Technology partnership with Angelina College that provides students with 26 hours earned for a Level 1 or Level 2 certificate. Certifications vary through the technology and workforce division.
I enjoyed shaking hands and taking pictures with our graduates this past May and to think that all of them were accepted to a college, university or military is so impressive. Hopefully the next hand our students shake while wearing a cap and gown will be on their college graduation day where some like me can proudly say that they are the first in their family, but not the last.
LaTonya Goffney is the superintendent of Lufkin ISD. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared in The Lufkin News.