Ava Sparks-Hansen and Jonathan Hagood are Brownwood’s top graduates

Ava Sparks-Hansen
Jonathan hagood

Brownwood High School has named Ava Sparks-Hansen as this year’s class major, and Jonathan Hagood has been named the 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 with trauma or brain disorders.

Her high school activities included a band, where she played alto sax, debates, and the National Honor Society. She also volunteers at the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center, claiming that she wants to “treat creatures with kindness whether they are 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 the band, where he played the bass drum, the National Honor Society, UIL University, and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.

Both students said their love for learning and academics started when they were much younger.

“I’ve actually been striving for this since I graduated from college, because academics have been kind of my thing since I was young,” Ava said after being named a valedictorian.

“I loved reading, I loved learning… plus my goal was to give a speech with a few puns. The main goal was academics and the second (goal) was to make a fun speech. There will of course be that sentimentality because this is our last year, but I wanted to make sure it was light and airy.

She continued, “Since I was little, I just wanted to learn. I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t the most outgoing, but I could always go back to my books, read, and learn. Knowledge is something that was just extremely important to me. I read a dictionary when I was 4 for fun. My mother gave me gifts to learn. She didn’t buy me any toys. She bought me books, memory cards, a dictionary.

Ava said she was influenced by the medical field because her mother is a nurse and her father is a doctor. She was also affected while attending a camp at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, where she was exposed to multiple aspects of medicine.

“I grew up in this world so I wanted to be a part of it,” Ava said.

Jonathan said being named a Salvatorian meant a lot to him.

“My freshman year, I had a bunch of challenges, because we actually moved my eighth grade and part of my freshman to another school,” Jonathan said. “I didn’t know anyone there. It was a huge and huge school.

“I relied a lot on my notes and reading. Books were a great friend to me because it was so intimidating to be in a new place. It was then that education became an important factor. Then when I came back to Brownwood after Christmas in my freshman year, I used that as a motivation to strive for excellence.

Jonathan said he loved the Bluebonnet readings as a student at Brownwood Intermediate School. “It was another thing that helped me improve my reading skills and made me love books,” Jonathan said. “So that was another thing that started very early.”

Jonathan said he was influenced by the business world because of his grandfather, who was a banker, and his father, a doctor who also owns real estate.

“(My grandfather) was the chairman of Comanche National Bank,” Jonathan said. “I have to come in and see everything they’re doing in the math world, and he was big on the numbers. I got that from him as well as from my father.

“I am a person of numbers. I have always had a passion for math and knew I wanted to do something in the world of math. I was like, well, business – I could do multiple avenues. Accounting is what I really love. I (realized) that I could continue by getting an MBA, then I could have several options later in life, like real estate, banking… ”

Jonathan also said he was touched by his participation in the U.S. Legion Boys State program, which allows participants to be part of local, county and state government operations.

“We need to take leadership positions in government and see the day-to-day lives of (lawmakers) and what they have to go through to pass bills and to come to an agreement,” Jonathan said. “It was a very neat event and we also got to hear some phenomenal speakers.”

Jonathan and Ava said they helped each other out with academics. “We never really thought about class rankings or anything,” Jonathan said. “We just focused on doing our best in school to make the most of it.”

About Mary Moser

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