Monica Valencia and Kerith Simmons have been keeping an eye on each other since seventh grade, when they first realized they had the top two GPAs in their Victory Life Academy class. Now, they’ve completed their goal of graduating at the top, with Valencia taking valedictorian honors and Simmons finishing as salutatorian.

“This has been a goal since I was a little kid,” Valencia said. “[Simmons] has always been my motivation to keep working hard.”

Simmons said academic achievement requires commitment every day. “It’s definitely a lot of effort,” she said. “You can’t just blow things off or procrastinate. You have to make the decision to actually try.”

On top of classes and extracurricular activities, both Simmons and Valencia have been taking dual-credit courses that will allow them to enter college with some coursework already completed. Valencia will continue her education nearby at Abilene Christian University.

“I’ll be pursuing a degree in graphic design and advertising, with a minor in either public relations or multimedia. I haven’t decided yet,” she said. “I wanted to stay local … so looking at ACU, it’s definitely a miracle that I get to go there. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer in deciding what school I want to go to, and ACU is the only one with graphic design and advertising that I found.”

Simmons will attend Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie and plans to major in counseling. “I think I was called there,” Simmons said. “It’s where I’m supposed to be. The Lord just opened the door for both of us.”

Valencia hopes to continue singing in a church praise team at ACU, while Simmons may pursue cheerleading after her freshman year. “I want to get in the swing of things and see how I can manage my time,” Simmons said.

Both girls have lived in Brownwood for years — Simmons since birth and Valencia since age 5. They said they’re excited to experience something new, even if they’ll miss home. “The people that I’ve become friends with and seen grow up, it’s going to be hard being away from them for so long,” Simmons said. “But that’s what’s going to make coming back so much better, just getting to see all our old friends.”