BANGS — Cesar Lopez and Dustin Bostick, the respective valedictorian and salutatorian of Bangs High School, took different routes to academic success. Lopez was born in Mexico and moved to Bangs in first grade, while Bostick was raised in a prominent Brown County family.

But their good grades have led to the same result — this fall, both will begin classes at Texas A&M University.

Lopez, who will study engineering at A&M, credits his Bangs teachers with giving him the extra “push” to succeed. “When I was a little kid, I never really had that much of a push in the school system over there. It really didn’t focus on kids, it focused on curriculum,” he said. “When I came here, I still didn’t realize it until my teachers, who are probably one of the greatest reasons I’ve become valedictorian, actually started pushing me to become a better student.”

Bostick, meanwhile, will major in nutrition in College Station and hopes eventually to study pharmacy or animal nutrition. He said football injuries forced him to step back from athletics and gave him the necessary perspective to become a greater student.

“I definitely toned the athletic side back,” Bostick said, “and then I moved on to showing [animals].”

Bostick kept a busy stock show schedule, missing several weeks over his high school career to travel and show. He always kept an eye on his grades, though, moderating his activities as necessary. “If my grades dropped, then we cut back,” he said. “It’s all about finding that balance.”

While Bostick said it’s a “little scary” to move from Bangs to a big school — one of the nation’s largest, in fact — his brother will be coming with him, as well as school friends like Lopez.

“I’m excited for a new environment,” he said, “and I’m excited to be responsible for myself.”

Lopez said his biggest worry and greatest excitement for college is the same thing — independence. “It’s exciting to be able to make decisions on your own, but it’s also scary,” he said.

Lopez’s first decisions seem promising. He hopes to get involved with science and history clubs at A&M, and also a physically active group like a hiking club.

Bostick wants to join the student government, which he hopes will help him make friends and meet people. He said it will be strange leaving the small-town atmosphere of Bangs.

“I’m definitely going to miss the teachers and the small-school feel, just kind of knowing everybody,” he said. “For me, I really enjoyed it. Just kind of walking down the halls today … was kind of sad, doing everything for the last time.

“But on the other hand, it’s exciting to change it up a bit,” he said.

Lopez said the key to his transition will be to just stay positive. “You’ll be able to do well academically if it’s fun for you and you’re genuinely interested,” he said.