BROOKESMITH — The Brookesmith High School Class of 2017 will be the first in Brown County to receive diplomas with graduation scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the Brookesmith High School Gymnasium.

Dylan Hancock is the Valedictorian, graduating a year early, while Jessie Harris is the Salutatorian.

“I honestly wasn’t planning on it,” Hancock said of leaving high school a year earlier than most. “I had the credits necessary to be a senior at the beginning of the year, but I decided not to because my parents wanted me to have the regular high school experience. But toward the end of last year we had the scare that the school would be shutting down. I went ahead and figured out which classes I needed to finish up. Since I had the credits necessary I didn’t have to add too much to my work load, so it actually wasn’t as bad as one would think.”

Hancock, who has attended Brookesmith schools since kindergarten, has braced himself for the change that will come when he steps on the Angelo State University campus in the fall.

“I think it’s going to be terrible for the first few weeks,” joked Hancock, who is part of a 16-person graduating class. “I doubt I’ll have any idea what I’m doing. Luckily some of my classmates are going to ASU as well so we’ll adjust together.”

As for a major, Hancock is undecided but leaning toward biology, while also considering computer programming.

“If I end up going with biology as my major I’m hoping to be able to work with something involving animals,” Hancock said. “I don’t have anything quite decided yet, maybe working in a lab, I’m not sure yet.

“I have been considering computer programming for a while, but I have to put in some extra work at home to actually get the courses done that I need before I start there. I’ll have to do some more research into that before I consider it any more than I am now.”

In April, Hancock earned a goal medal in Accounting at the UIL Class A State Academics Meet, one of his many high school highlights.

“One-act play has definitely been my favorite extracurricular activity here,” Hancock said, “along with UIL, working with friends, stuff like that.”

Hancock credits his parents and current Brookesmith principal Sandy Lehman for their influences.

“My parents have been the ones pushing me to make sure I kept my grades up. Without their lofty standards I probably wouldn’t have wound up in the position that I did,” Hancock said. “Mrs. Lehman, our math teacher who is also our principal, has put in so much work to make sure our school remained open and she’s helped with the majority of my classes at one time or another.”

Hancock’s addition to the class bumped Harris to the No. 2 spot, which she admitted was a stinging blow, but understands greater achievements are in store.

“It’s kind of disappointing because I’ve always been top of my class and that’s what my goal has been since I was a little girl, to be the Valedictorian,” Harris said. “Whenever the juniors moved up it bumped me down, so to be quite honest I’m not happy about it, but I’m sure God’s plan is much greater than my personal goals.”

Harris intends to carry the same determination on her grades into college that she carried throughout high school.

“My biggest fear in college is my academics,” Harris said. “Being at the top of my class, there’s a lot of pressure going into college because I’ve already taken some dual credit classes here. My goal is continue to make good grades in college and I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, it’s not going to be like high school, but I hope that I can pull it out.”

Harris has already been accepted to Tarleton State University. “I’m really glad they accepted me because that was my only plan,” Harris joked. “I’m very big on agriculture. My family has a ranch and a farm and I’ve always been very involved in 4-H. I’ve shown animals and competed at state, so agriculture is definitely a very large aspect of my life.”

As she begins to prepare for college life, “What I’m looking at right now is range management so I’d have to get an animal science degree,” Harris said. “My dad doesn’t agree with that because it doesn’t make me enough money. But whenever I get to college we’ll figure out real quick what path things are going to lead me down.”

While Harris isn’t exactly sure what type of job she’ll hold a decade from now, she definitely knows what she’s looking for.

“Ten years is a long way away, but I know it will come before I’m ready for it,” Harris said. “I’m sure by then I’ll have a steady career going. I hope that through the career I’m wanting I’ll be able to travel. I don’t want to sit behind a desk, I want to be out and about. I want to be able to help people like me, be around an environment where I can associate with people who have the same interests and values as me.”

Along with agriculture, Harris has a great passion for Lady Mustangs athletics as she competed in numerous sports.

“Throughout by life I’ve been in involved in athletics all the time,” Harris said. “My freshman year we won bi-district in basketball and Coach Josh Smith, I’d like thank him. And Coach (Kristy) Sweatman, she really made a difference this year. I’m really happy that we have her and I hope she stays a long time. She’s brought a lot to this program. And not only does she teach us about sports, she teaches us a lot about life and the way you need to go at it.”

Regarding those who helped her academically, Harris said the bulk of the credit belongs to her family.

“My parents have always been very strict on me and expect a lot out of me and I’m very thankful for that,” Harris said. “They’ve definitely made me the driven person that I am.

“And my Mawmaw, she’s always told me to have fun. I love to dance and she tells me to dance one for her, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

BROWN COUNTY VALEDICTORIAN/SALUTATORIAN STORIES

n Friday: Brookesmith

n Saturday: Victory Life

n Sunday: Blanket

n Tuesday: May

n Wednesday: Zephyr

n Thursday: Bangs

n Friday: Brownwood

n Saturday: Early