The top students at Sulphur Springs High School this year plan to pursue degrees and careers which will would allow them to have a far-reaching positive impact locally, and possibly across the state and maybe even the world.
SSHS 2013 valedictorian Will Horton has been accepted into the Honors College at Texas A&M University-Commerce to complete his undergraduate work, then transfer to the University of Texas-Austin with intent to pursue a degree in law. He then plans to work in corporate law in Dallas with the goal of one day running for governor of Texas.
When asked why he wants to become governor, Horton said the current state of education in this country ranks very far below that in other countries for grade kindergarten through 12th grade.
“I want to help pass legislation to reform the education system. Most are aware of the condition the education system is in. I want to start with Texas and work my way to the rest of the country,” Horton said.
He’s already had a taste of what it’s like to be a lawyer, serving as the lead defense attorney for Hopkins County Teen Court. He’s been active in Teen Court the last four years.
Horton has been involved in many other activities which have also given him a solid background on which to begin building toward his chosen field.
He became an Eagle Scout Dec. 6, 2012, and since he first became involved in Boy Scouts of America in sixth grade has held many positions, including troop chaplain, assistant and senior patrol leader, junior assistant scoutmaster and is an assistant scoutmaster.
Horton is also involved in National Honor Society, serving as vice president of the SSHS chapter this year.
He’s a two-time state champion in and part of the state economic research project team that were state finalists in Business Professionals of America.
In UIL, Horton competed cross examination debate for two years, three years in persuasive speaking and one year in literary criticism. He placed third at district and was a regional qualifier in persuasive speaking, placed fourth at district in literary criticism and was on the lit crit team which has advanced to state UIL competition.
The valedictorian also has been on the Chess Club for four years, lettered three of the four years he played varsity tennis. This year, he was named Tennis MVP.
His sophomore year, Horton was involved in the AP biology class recycling project. The class obtained a one-year grant which allowed them to initiate a project to collect and recycle paper and cardboard. While project didn’t reach self-sustainability, he felt it was a worthwhile endeavor start a recycling effort, even a small one.
At First United Methodist Church, where he is a member, Horton has a seat on the finance committee and executive council. He started out as a youth liaison member. He’s been on the executive council for five years. A year and a half a go he was recommended by a friend and asked to serve on the finance council.
His BPA and service at the church gave him a tast for finance. As a corporate attorney, he will be able to look at options regarding money and “what you can legally do with it.”
Horton’s hobbies and interests include playing tennis and reading.
His advice to other students is to “read a lot” both the assigned readings in high school as well as for personal enjoyment and knowledge to be successful.
“The more you read the better you will do. It will contribute to your academic success,” Horton said.
He credits Terry Kosub, his teacher at Water Oak Elementary, for “encouraging my love of reading,” and also recommends students “be the best well rounded student you can be.”
Horton also credits SSHS English Gail Herman for contributing to his successes as well. He credits her with having a major role in shaping the way he studies, learns and even his thinking process.
“She takes the bar that’s set and has you look to the top of the universe, then look higher. It’s full speed ahead in her class. In fact, in one class on the last day, we had a fire drill. She still gave three quizzes and a test,” he acknowledged with a laugh.
Horton is the son of Darrell and Elsianne Horton, brother of Gracie Horton and grandson on Verdon and Jerry Graves.
In addition to being accepted into the Honors College, TAMUC has also awarded him a Presidential Scholarship and Rotary Club presented him with a $1,000 scholarship to help pursue his career goals.
SSHS 2013 salutatorian Emily Brackhahn plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering at Texas A&M University-College Station. From there, she hopes to “get into undergraduate research programs and take it where it leads me,” she said.
She says her friends often kid her that with her work, she just might be the person to find a cure for cancer. Brackhahn, however, modestly noted that with all the work being done by specialists in these areas, it’s more likely that feat will go to someone else.
When looking at degree plans and career opportunities which would allow her to combine the subjects she likes most: biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry ad math — and studying subjects she’s interested in. She considered applying her training to the options available in the job market – things like food industry and pharmaceutical research. Chemical engineering best combines all of her interests, and it generally pays better too.
In fact, she recommends finding what you like and working hard for it, giving 100 percent all the time in order to achieve success.
“I think that people – especially high school students — need to find something they enjoy and stick with it, not just take one to two classes in it,” Brackhahn said. Find something you enjoy and do it. You’ll be happy with it. I found my niche — school. You can strive for anything: FFA, photography, scient, whatever. I study. If it’s something I enjoy in a subject I’m most interested. I know it will pay off in the end, even if it’s not fun now.”
She said following through with total effort paves the path for other things down the line.
Brackhahn says setting priorities and learning to balance the many things in life has served her well.
She has maintain a high grade point average, been involved in cheerleading and other extracurricular activities throughout high school.
Brackhahn has been involved with cheerleading all four years of high school, participating in several competition including being a National Cheerleaders Association cheerleader for three year.
She has also been involved in Key Club for four years, helping with such activities as the annual Easter Egg hunt, Special Games Day, pancake breakfast and more.
Brackhahn has been a member of the Hi King Klub for two years, including serving as treasurer this year, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
She’s also held at least one part-time job since she was a sophomore.
“It’s a difficult balance. In the spring of last year, I had two jobs and two AP classes,” the salutatorian acknowledged.
She worked at Pizza Inn and Hawaiian Style Shaved Ice snow cone stand. She currently works at Sweet Frog.
Brackhahn also has been involved in UIL competition, competing in math and science for two years and cross examination debate one year. She was also part of the tam that earned first at region in CX debate.
She noted that there’s been a lot of studying involved to do all of her school and UIL work, in addition to her other commitments and work.
“It’s hard balancing school, work and UIL, especially this year” as she fills out college applications too, but she’s felt the hard work has been worth it. She sees each as step toward her future, and believes that although she may not have seen it at the time or even now, she has or will have learned a lesson or something valuable for each.
Brackhahn too credits SSHS English teacher Gail Herman for her influence in her life.
“She is one of the best teachers. She loves the subject she teachers. You can tell when she teaches she is passionate about it,” Brackhahn said, adding that she’s learned quite a bit from Herman, and “not just English.” Herman’s influence and high standard pushes students to a higher level of learning, which spreads to other classes as well.
Brackhahn also gives credit to math teacher Gerald Grafton.
“I love his class. He’s funny and a good teacher,” she said.
The salutatorian’s hobbies include reading, particularly dystopian books such as “1984,” assigned reading this year; listening to music; and watching “any kind of movies” she has time “to sit down and really get into.”
Brackhahn is the daughter of Liz and Scott Moss and Todd Brackhahn.
To help pursue her goals, Brackhahn has been awarded a $2,000 a year Foundation Ex’s Scholarship and a $1,500 Top 10 Percent Scholarship to Texas A&M University, a $2,500 Teacher’s Credit Union Scholarship and a $500 Hopkins County A&M Club Scholarship.
“These two work hard and set goals. These students are smart yet they are enthusiastic, energetic workers at the same time. They will do very well for the rest of their lives. They’ve got it all together. They have it all set up to be very successful,” said SSHS Principal Charles Alderman, upon the official announcement Monday of the pair as the top students. “Both are well rounded, involved in athletics, academics and a little of everything.”
“You represent our school well. I am proud to put you up as promotional representatives. I also thank your parents as well. You didn’t get here without help,” Superintendent Michael Lamb said as Horton and Brackhahn were recognized and presented plaques honring their achievement as valedictorian and salutatorian by the school board at their Monday night meeting.
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