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West top grads credit band for success

By KBell
May 31, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.
Updated June 1, 2012 at 1:01 a.m.

Victoria West High School salutatorian Harrison Garrett and valedictorian Emily Sestak spent their high school careers playing in the band. They have known each other since elementary school, both love math and although they are going to different colleges, both want to be engineers.

Not long after a final exam, Harrison Garrett made a pit stop at Starbucks before he would head to a robotics course that evening.

"This is more or less what college is going to feel like," Harrison, 18, thought out loud.

In a few months, he and Emily Sestak, 18, will venture to their respective universities after having followed quite similar paths on their journey to becoming the top graduates from West High School. Both have 4.0 GPAs, Emily is this year's valedictorian, while Harrison is salutatorian.

Emily and Harrison played in the Band of Warriors throughout high school, and both plan to study engineering - Emily civil engineering, and Harrison mechanical.

"I really like math and science, and civil engineering - it's a way to use those skills to make new things and to make things that help people," Emily said.

West's top grads went to the same elementary school, take the same courses, including Robotics 1 at the University of Houston-Victoria, and they both tutor kids at Vickers Elementary School. They both also have moms working within the school district who were always comparing notes on opportunities for their kids, Emily said.

When she wasn't playing the clarinet, Emily was at church, volunteering with the Leo Club or just trying her best at school. It wasn't until her junior year, she said, that she realized she had a shot for the valedictorian spot.

"I'm not very competitive. It doesn't really bother me if somebody else scores better. I'm competitive with myself," she said.

Harrison had a similar attitude. He said he was happy to hear Emily would be valedictorian. In the meantime, he was earning his Eagle Scout badge or playing video games.

"Now that I'm an Eagle Scout, it's not about my personal growth. It's about me taking what I've learned and filling the world with it as much as I can," Harrison said.

He'll take that lesson with him to Baylor, where he has a full ride as a National Merit Scholar.

Emily will go to Texas A&M University with the first year paid for thanks to her valedictorian title.

On another afternoon in Starbucks, Emily and Harrison saw a group of friends from the band walk through the door.

Perked up, they both said their experiences with the band will be one of the things they will miss the most from their time at West High School. They said the band taught them about leadership, responsibility and time management. Plus, it was their longtime family away from home.

"You know that they are people who will give you support," Emily said.

While Emily and Harrison will continue to play their instruments, they plan to focus most of their time in college to studying.



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