Ava Sparks-Hansen, Jonathan Hagood are top Brownwood grads
Brownwood High School has named Ava Sparks-Hansen as valedictorian of this year’s graduating class, and Jonathan Hagood has been named salutatorian.
Ava, the daughter of Shawntay Sparks-Hubbard and Jason Hubbard, plans to pursue a major in neuroscience at Baylor University and hopes to become a neurologist. She wants to use music therapy to help patients who have brain traumas or disorders.
Her high school activities have included band, where she played alto sax, debate and National Honor Society. She also volunteers at the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center, saying she wants to "treat creatures with kindness whether they're human or not."
Jonathan, the son of Nicholas and Stacy Hagood, plans to major in accounting at Oklahoma Christian University and then pursue an MBA. Jonathan’s activities have included band, where he played bass drum, the National Honor Society, academic UIL and the STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math).
Both students said their love for learning and academics began when they were much younger.
“I’ve been actually striving for this since the end of middle school, because academics have kind of been my thing since I was young,” Ava said of being named valedictorian.
“I’ve loved reading, I’ve loved learning … plus, it was my goal to make a speech with a few puns in there. The main goal was academics and the second (goal) was making a fun speech. There is of course going to be that sentimentality because it is our senior year, but I wanted to make sure that it was light and airy.”
She continued, “Ever since I was very little, I just had an inclination to want to learn. I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t the most outgoing, but I could always go back to my books, read and gain knowledge. Knowledge is something that was just extremely important to me. I read a dictionary when I was 4 for fun. My mom would get me gifts for learning. She didn’t buy me toys. She bought me books, flash cards, a dictionary.”
Ava said she’s been influenced toward the medical field because her mother is a nurse and her father is a doctor. She was also impacted by attending a camp at John Hopkins University in Maryland, where she was exposed to multiple aspects of medicine.
“I have been raised in that world and so I wanted to just be a part of it,” Ava said.
Jonathan said being named salutatorian means a lot to him.
“My freshman year I had a bunch of challenges, because we actually moved away my eighth grade year and part of my freshman year to another school,” Jonathan said. “I didn’t know anyone there. It was a huge, huge school.
“I relied heavily on my grades and reading. Books were a huge friend to me because it was just so daunting to be in a new place. That’s when education became a huge factor. Then when I came back to Brownwood, after Christmas of my freshman year, I used that as motivation in order to strive for excellence.”
Jonathan said he had loved the Bluebonnet Readings as a student at Brownwood Intermediate School. “That was another thing that helped improve my reading skills and it made me love books,” Jonathan said. “So that was another thing that started early on.”
Jonathan said he was influenced toward the business world because of his grandfather, who was a banker, and his father, a doctor who also has real estate.
“(My grandfather) was the president of Comanche National Bank,” Jonathan said. “I got to go in and see all the stuff they do in the math world, and he was big on numbers. I kind of got that from him as well as my dad.
“I’m a numbers person. I’ve just always had a passion for math, and I knew I wanted to do something in the math world. I was like, well, business — I could do multiple avenues. Accounting is what I really love. I (realized) I could follow it up by getting an MBA, and then I could have multiple options later on in life, like real estate, banking …”
Jonathan also said he was impacted by his participation in the American Legion Boys State program, which allows participants to become part of the operation of local, county and state government.
“We got to hold government leadership positions and see the daily lives of (legislators) and what they have to go through in order to pass bills, and to get along,” Jonathan said. “It was a very neat event and we got to hear from some phenomenal speakers as well.”
Jonathan and Ava said they have helped each other with academics. “We never really thought about class rankings or anything,” Jonathan said. “We just focused on doing the best we could in school to get the most out of it.”