Needville ISD names top students
Needville High School Class of 2019 valedictorian is Claudia Garcia-Martinez, and salutatorian is Eutimio “Tim” Garza.
Rounding out the Top 10, in descending order, are Grant Maresh, Daniel Kluttz, Anna Gadway, Scotlyn Lowe, Dionne Freund, Samantha Dostal, Bella Ruggeroli and Trent Holub.
The public is invited to graduation ceremonies, which begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Blue Jay Stadium.
The Rev. Gerri DiSomma of Carmel Church and The Rev. Bo Magehee of Grace Community Fellowship Church will provide the opening and closing prayers, respectively.
Garcia-Martinez, 17, has a 104.784 grade-point average (GPA) and is the daughter of Alma Martinez and Rogelio Garcia.
She will attend the University of Houston and is undecided on a specific major, although it will likely be in the field of scientific research.
“I have always been really interested in the stem-cell field, and I especially like biochemical biology and chemistry classes,” she said. “That has always fascinated me and kind of paved the way for me to choose scientific research as a field of study.”
Garcia-Martinez plans to specialize in disease control, helping to find more cures for viruses and ways to prevent diseases.
“My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and it’s very hard,” she said. “My father gets really sad because of it and I want to research to find a cure. There’s got to be a solution or a way to prevent it.”
In the meantime, Garcia-Martinez wants to study abroad and travel through Europe. But for this summer, she plans to visit places in U.S., possibly making a return trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.
Her sister, Alma Garcia, graduated from Needville High School last year and attends the University of Houston, and her brother, Roger Garcia, will be in eighth grade at Needville Junior High come fall.
Garcia-Martinez focuses much of her volunteer efforts on the UIL invitational hosted by Needville High School each year, which she said is similar to a work environment and therefore a good experience.
Her favorite UIL category is debate, and she gives her debate teacher, Adam Kohleffel, much of the credit for her academic success.
“I’ve known him all four years of high school and he sees more eye-to-eye with the students than most teachers,” said Garcia-Martinez. “There are teachers who are professional all the time - every single second - but with Mr. Kohleffel it’s more of an open atmosphere and he tries to see things from students’ perspective. He graduated from Needville and he understands.”
In fact, said Garcia-Martinez, one of her favorite high school memories is of Kohleffel in the role of Will Smith, lip-syncing to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” at the Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE) Lip Sync Battle earlier this month.
Garcia-Martinez is a Beta Club member who enjoys the simple life.
“I really like to read, and I like to go outside,” she said. “I also like fishing and playing chess with my brother and sister.”
The family moved to Needville when the now-valedictorian was in fourth grade.
“I went to Lamar before that, and it was an easy transition,” she recalled. “It’s more peaceful here in the country and it’s way more friendly. Everyone knows everyone and you have that sense of comfort that you can’t find anywhere else. You don’t have those personal relationships anywhere else like you do in Needville.”
It’s those relationships that Garcia-Martinez said she will miss most.
“I think definitely the No. 1 thing I’ll miss is the teachers,” she said. “It’s sort of a different relationship because you know their expectations. It’s almost like a second home. That’s what school is. I treat school like work, but it’s a second home. The teachers are looking out for you and helping you do the best for yourself. I’ll miss that the most.”
As for her rise to the top of her graduating class, Garcia-Martinez described it as “kind of a fluke thing.”
“My freshman year I was just going to do school. Then, my sophomore year, during the summer, people were like, ‘Did you know you’re No. 1?’ I was like, ‘What does that mean?’” she said with a laugh. “Other people knew before I knew.”
Once she heard the news, Garcia-Martinez decided it was time to set a goal to become valedictorian, and now that dream has come true.
“I have to thank God first and foremost because I wouldn’t even be where I am without Him,” she said. “I would also like to thank my father. What he’s been through for me to have this opportunity is just incredible. And overall, I thank the Needville ISD staff because I wouldn’t be pursuing anything if it weren’t for them being there for me and lending a hand all along.”
Garza, 18, has a GPA of 104.157 and is the son of Eutimio Garza and Yolanda Garza. He has two younger sisters who attend Needville High School: Deisy, who will be a senior in the fall, and Devany, who will be a sophomore.
Garza will attend Texas A&M University, where he plans to major in architectural engineering.
“I’ve always had a passion for construction, and A&M has a great engineering program; I think it’s ranked third overall in the nation,” he said. “The thing I like most about it is that the specific program I want to major in is an interdisciplinary program.”
During summers, Garza works as a framer, an occupation which led him to form his career goal of opening his own engineering firm one day.
“I’ve always had a passion for construction. I work in framing over the summers and on vacation, so I decided to take it up a notch and study architectural engineering. That’s the idea I’ve had in my mind for a while now.”
He has other ideas as well.
“My plan is really just to live life as I go,” he said. “People must realize that one must work hard regardless of the situation. It is the only way one can truly succeed, in my opinion. As I continue to live my life, I plan to make the Hispanic community and all of my family proud.
“The Hispanic community is strong and it’s growing; however, a lot of Latinos feel they can’t make it in this country. I want that to become a myth,” he added. “You just have to take the opportunities this country gives you and make the most of them. I want to prove that anything is truly is possible if you just put your mind to it.”
Garza said he “climbed to the top little by little” to be named salutatorian.
“This country gave me the opportunity to get a good education so I’m going to take it,” he said. “I’ve always been a competitive person and I’ve always wanted to be the best person I could possibly be.”
That includes volunteering at St. Michael’s Catholic Church and with the Knights of Columbus for their annual fish fry events, as well as some Needville High School Band and academic activities.
Garza is a defensive end for the varsity football team and a forward for the basketball team, and plays saxophone in the band. He also enjoys welding, riding his four-wheeler, hunting and fishing, and just about anything outdoors.
In addition, he is president of the high school’s National Honor Society, Spanish Club, and Student Class Government, vice president of Student Council, and a Fellowship of Christian Athletes member.
Garza plans to work most of the summer “and get ready for college and get settled in there” after a trip to Mexico to visit family.
“Both of my parents are from Mexico,” he explained. “Naturally, my family made the decision to move back to Mexico and we moved there when I was in first grade. However, when things got tense in that country, my family decided it would be best if we moved back to the United States. I came back here when I was in sixth grade.”
Garza said his family has been the “true source” of his inspiration and he appreciates all they have done for him.
“I would like to take the opportunity to give my parents and my sisters a big shout out for all the support they have given me all my life,” he said. “I also want to thank the teachers, the faculty, the coaches for helping me out along the way and my friends for the years we have shared together.”
Chief among those friends are Grant Maresh, Kate Kunkel, Trent Holub, twins Hunter and Casey Dworaczyk, Jack Basden, Savannah Gless, Jessica Alberto, Bella Ruggeroli, and Kane Wieghat, and his football team members, especially the linemen.
“We call ourselves ‘The Phatties,’” he said with a laugh. “There’s no greater excitement, no greater joy, than going to war on Friday nights with your brothers because that’s what they are: brothers. I just couldn’t ask for a better extended family consisting of both coaches and players. I would like to thank especially Coach (Mark) Hudgens, Coach (Patrick) Oliver, Coach (Tyler) Lawson, Coach (Marcus) Miculek, and Coach (Michael) Melendez for helping me improve as both a person and an athlete for the last four years.”
Garza said his favorite high school memory is a collective one of “every Friday night.”
“My friends, teammates and coaches made it all such a fun time for me,” he said. “High school was just a great experience.