BANGS — The academic bar for Christian Cooper was raised after each year as a student at Bangs High School.

When learning of her No.1 class rank near the end of her freshman year, Cooper said her parents — “once they saw my grades were above a certain standard” — helped bury any idea of complacency on her academics by having her maintain a 95-98- grade percentage, well above a 4.0 grade-point average, until graduation.

If it was below their standards?

“I’d get my phone taken away,” Copper, 18, said with a laugh. “It had to happen. I wanted it to happen because it helped me.”

Cooper, who recently earned the coveted honor of valedictorian, and her 72 other classmates will slide their tassels to the right before tossing their kelly green caps into the air at Friday's graduation.

Cooper said she is going to attend either Texas A&M University or Texas State University, and though she is leaning toward studying forensic anthropology, she is open to change but hopes to “find something that incorporates a lot of math.”

Mathematics has always been Cooper’s favorite subject. She recently finished up an online pre-calculus course through Ranger College.

Asked on how some of her classmates reacted to her being named valedictorian, she said, “A lot of people said, ‘I didn’t know you were smart.’ Other than that it has been a lot of them saying they’re happy for me.”

Though she said will miss her friends and family — “I’ll probably start coming back every weekend [during the semester]” — her move to either College Station or San Marcos, with each city being about a three-hour drive from Bangs, will allow her to employ “independence.”

Kaitlyn Bush, salutatorian


Bush, the second-highest ranked student, has been the drum major at Bangs High since her sophomore year, and she will continue her music passion as well as enroll into the School of Christian Studies at Howard Payne University this fall.

The 18-year-old, who started playing the trumpet but now on French horn, plans to obtain a bachelors degree in Christian Studies and minor in music.

“God gave me a passion for music, and I want to use it to minister to other people,” said Bush, who credited her salutatorian honor on being “self-motivated” and “competitive academically.”

Bush said she chose Howard Payne and stay within a short drive from her family because of the friends she has already made at the private university.

“We’re a pretty tightknit group,” she said. “I want to continue that accountability and not have to reestablish that somewhere else.”