Each student – and each graduate – is different. Their strengths, their challenges, their stories.
In Frisco ISD, our mission is to know every student by name and need. Over the last 13 years, teachers and parents have guided members of the Class of 2016 along their academic and personal journeys.
This week, the District will join family and friends in celebrating the accomplishments of more than 2,900 high school seniors.
No matter the circumstances, it’s a time for each graduate to reflect on all the dedication and hard work that went in to earning a diploma.
Here are just a few of their inspiring stories:
When life begins in foster care, the expectations and goals set by society are not always very clear or demanding.
Caleb Ayers was adopted when he was 11 months old. His adoptive mother is a single parent, so as a teenager, Caleb has become the man of the house. His maturity and compassion have grown with his responsibility.
He joined FISD in sixth grade after moving from Plano. His high school counselor, Cindy Marshall, is one of Caleb’s biggest fans. She has watched him grow, manage adversity and setbacks and become a favorite of many Centennial High School teachers.
“Caleb is a solid student who has absolutely won over his teachers,” Marshall recently wrote in a letter of reference for Caleb to use in his college applications. “One of his teachers used the word ‘favorite’ to describe him three times in one paragraph! His politeness and respectfulness make him stand out. He is mature, hard-working, genuine and friendly. He takes care of business and knows how to take the initiative to ask for help when needed.”
Caleb has benefitted from Frisco ISD’s mission. He says his mentors have included Officer Avery Jones, the school resource officer, and Associate Principal David Alexander.
“Officer Jones and Mr. Alexander have taught me discipline, focus and to stay humble,” Caleb said.
Both men bring strength of character and commitment to their careers and model it at Centennial every day. They have enjoyed getting to know Caleb and watching him mature. Alexander attributes Caleb’s respectful attitude and work ethic to the training he received from his mother.
“Caleb understands the need to seek out sound advice when necessary, so I always try to encourage him to never stop seeking his own goal and to not worry about what the next person is doing,” Alexander said. “I encourage him to work hard and make sacrifices while he’s young, because in the long term it will pay off for him. Caleb has a bright future ahead of him and I’m glad to have gotten an opportunity to have him as one of Centennial’s best.”
Caleb demonstrated his ability to handle adversity when he was moved down to the junior varsity basketball team after having been placed on the varsity team, Marshall said.
“He handled it with grace. Instead of quitting or complaining, he played every game with his head held high and made the choice to be a leader,” she said.
Caleb says that people often ask him why he works so hard even when sometimes there’s no reward.
“My answer is that nothing is too hard for me to do with God on my side,” he said. “He is the one that will reward me.”
Caleb was accepted to every college he applied to and has received substantial scholarship offers from each of them. He plans to attend La Salle University in Philadelphia, as the recipient of the Founder’s Scholarship. He will study business and entrepreneurship.
Olivia and Devon Callan
Olivia and Devon Callan both made the top ten this year at Heritage High School. Olivia is salutatorian and Devon is not far behind her.
Their family decided early on to make financial and career sacrifices that would benefit these two students.
Their mother Ondine Callan wanted to be more available and involved in her children’s lives. She and her husband wanted what was best for their children, both academically and in the arts. They hoped for them to develop good study habits, but also outside interests that would help them succeed in life. That meant a career change for mom.
“I have a Ph.D. in biomathematics and I worked for 15 years as a research biostatistician in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry,” Callan said. “When the twins were in second grade, I decided to leave the industry, even though I loved the field. I wanted to focus more on raising the twins and be more involved in their education.”
She became a high school math teacher and the family moved from California to Texas when the twins were ready for third grade. They chose Frisco ISD because educators in the family told them it was an up-and-coming school district. They attended Sem Elementary for third and fourth grades, Tadlock Elementary for fifth, Roach Middle School for sixth, Maus Middle School for seventh and eighth and then Heritage all four years.
“We were part of the massive amount of rezoning, but it was fine!” Callan said. “They make the schools so similar and the transition so smooth, the kids didn’t miss a beat!”
This year, her children had the unusual experience of having her in the classroom, as well as at home.
“It was not until recently that I realized how much my mom sacrificed to be closer to me and Devon,” Olivia said. “Having her as a teacher definitely opened my eyes. She would tell stories in class that I had never heard before, about her life before me and Devon. I got to learn about a whole different side of her.”
Callan knows the difference the small schools philosophy makes in the lives of students, both from the perspective of a teacher and parent.
“Smaller schools mean more opportunities for my kids, especially in the arts,” she said. “They had more opportunities to participate in band, orchestra and theatre productions, along with UIL and AcDec competitions. They would not have had as many opportunities in a larger school. They were also more bonded to students starting from elementary school, and by the time they got to high school, they knew more students and felt more at home – instead of feeling lost in a larger high school.”
Callan also says she thinks these two very bright students were comfortable enough to get involved because the schools were smaller.
“Frisco ISD is very special in that it maintains the small school philosophy, but also has the CTE Center so the District is still able to offer classes that only larger schools can typically offer,” she said. “My son has taken several classes at the CTE Center and we’re grateful he had those opportunities as well.”
Though both twins are smart and have grown up in the same house, they have their differences, their mother says.
“Devon's more math- and science-oriented and Olivia prefers languages and social sciences,” Callan said. “But they are both really passionate about the arts – Devon plays the trombone in band and Olivia plays the cello in orchestra and is heavily involved in theatre.”
The Callan twins are heading in different directions after graduation. Devon will be attending The University of Texas at Austin in the Engineering Honors program and Dean's Scholars program to major in chemical engineering and computer science. Olivia will be attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to major in international affairs.
Imagine moving from Florida to Texas in mid-April of your senior year. Asia Lawson, a bright student with big plans, found herself in that situation this year. She had been on track to graduate at her former high school, but Texas requires more credits than Florida.
“I needed to take government, another science, speech, and I took a creative writing class,” Asia said.
She did the work online at the Student Opportunity Center as part of Academic Academy, a program that assists students in achieving their educational goals. It is just one more way Frisco ISD tries to meet the needs of students who may have unusual issues hindering their progress.
Student Opportunity Center Counselor Mike Siciliano said Asia did exactly what she had to do to complete her credits and earn a diploma.
“On the first day, she did four assignments and a lab,” he said, noting that she got her credits while also working and adjusting to a new community.
Asia did so well that she was awarded a scholarship from local charity, With Love It’s a Small World, which covers about 60 credits through Collin College. She begins classes at Collin College on June 6.
In all of these cases, whether the student joined FISD in third grade or second semester their senior year, they took advantage of the opportunities afforded to them. Staff members worked in partnership with the student and the home to meet their unique needs and help prepare them for their chosen path after they leave the District. FISD salutes the Class of 2016 and thanks the community for their support and investment in the futures of these young people.