St. Joseph salutatorian focuses on future (video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 23, 2013 at 12:23 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2013 at 12:24 a.m.
Annie Gilliam is a prime example of an all-American girl.
She's a well-rounded fusion of feminine and tomboy. She wears her long, blond hair straight; some days using her aviator sunglasses as a headband.
A longtime community volunteer, Victoria Youth Soccer Organization defender, St. Joseph High School cheerleader and cross-country runner, Gilliam has spent her high school years immersing herself in school and community spirit.
But the 18-year-old St. Joseph High School senior is academically gifted, too.
And Sunday, Gilliam, who secured the salutatorian spot for her 2013 graduation class, will deliver her farewell speech at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.
"I want to tell them to follow your heart," she said. "Everybody has it in them to move toward the future, and no matter what's happened in the past, there's always room to grow and look to the future for prosperity and success."
Gilliam said she was thrilled to learn she would represent her class as salutatorian. But she wasn't necessarily competing for the honor.
She was doing what came naturally, she said.
"Academics have always been important. But I didn't have the parents that were strict and forced me to study," she said. "They made it an independent thing for me, and they kept me on track. They wanted me to have the determination."
Gilliam also said her teachers at St. Joseph were skilled at motivating students to learn strong study skills and college preparation.
"St. Joe teaches you how to take the material and actually learn it and not just recall it," she said.
Another area in which St. Joseph thrives, Gilliam said, is emphasizing God and morality to its students.
"They give you a strong base of values and morals, so that when they send you on your way and you go into the world, you'll know what to expect and succeed."
In the fall, Gilliam will attend Texas A&M University, where she plans to obtain a bachelor's degree in nutrition science.
"I want to go to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon," she said, describing her plans after college.
She said in 10 years, she hopes to be close to concluding her residency in medical school and on her way to financial independence.
Gilliam said she's excited to move away from her native Victoria, but she knows she will miss her friends and family.
"Our class is really close, and we all get along really well," she said.
During her speech at Sunday's graduation, she said she'll talk about the past and the present. But she'll also remind her classmates that graduation is about the future.
"I'm a little nervous about leaving. It's bittersweet," she said. "But it's done. It's time to move on."