ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene ISD seniors shared a bittersweet memory and victory Tuesday morning. The district honored top 25 academic graduates of Cooper and Abilene high schools, as well as the top six students from ATEMS.

With student body sizes at more than 2,100 in Abilene High, nearly 1,800 at Cooper High, and more than 300 at ATEMS, KTAB/KRBC wanted to learn what led to these honored students’ school successes.

ATEMS High School valedictorian, Levi Bryan said the secret was studying year-round, even when school wasn’t in session.

“Hard work. [It’s] Just a lot of hours, hard work, doing your job during the summer, working hard during the summer that way you don’t have to worry about it during the school year,” Bryan revealed.

Abilene ISD: ATEMS 2023 valedictorian Levi Bryan

Bryan reminded incoming students; freshman year grades determine how your GPA will look moving forward.

“Freshman year matters, don’t blow it off,” urged Bryan. “It may seem like four years, but it’s going to go quickly.”

Bryan will be attending Texas Tech University this fall, majoring in mechanical engineering.

Cooper High School valedictorian, Lily Kovac told KTAB/KRBC she’ll be trading her red and blue colors for orange and white as she plans to attend University of Texas at Austin in the fall.

Abilene ISD: CHS 2023 valedictorian Lily Kovac

“The secret to success is hard work and dedication,” Kovac answered. “Obviously being smart helps, too, but at the end of the day when you’re driven, that’s what gets you where you want to be.”

For Abilene High School valedictorian, Griffin Sullivan, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“My father was also near the top of his class when he graduated here from Abilene High. I thought it would be really cool to follow in his footsteps this way,” added Sullivan.

Abilene ISD: AHS 2023 valedictorian Griffin Sullivan

Sullivan’s dad, Slade said he couldn’t be any prouder. He also shared what he is most proud of is not his son’s academic success, but who he is as a person.

“He did better than I did… I was Salutatorian class of 1991 a long time ago, so yeah, he passed me up. I’m happy for him,” Mr. Sullivan offered.

Sullivan’s advice to freshmen is to set their goals early, “Whatever their goals may be. If they’re determined and work hard to achieve them, I think they can do it.”