First graduating class of Avalos P-Tech HS reflects on their four-year journey

By Anne Marie Kilday

EAST ALDINE – They are trailblazers, but more importantly, they have developed a bond that will never be broken.

On June 3, when the 103 seniors from Avalos P-Tech Early College High School walk across the stage and receive their diplomas at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center, they will become the first class in the history of the school to graduate.

It has been quite a four-year journey for the Class of 2023. They have left their mark at the Pathways in Technology High School. Some will move onto post-secondary education, while others will enter the work force.

But no matter where they all go, they will have the common bond of being the first group of Avalos students to earn their high school diploma. And some (44) have already earned their associates degrees from Lone Star College, which along with BakerRipley, is a partner with the Aldine ISD campus, which opened in August of 2019. The school, named after long-time Aldine ISD educator and current Board of Trustee Secretary Rose M. Avalos, provides students with a chance to earn their high school diploma, an associate’s degree and work credentials, including professional certifications and licenses. Students also had the opportunity to engage in work-based education at each level through internships, apprenticeships and other forms of job training programs.

The school offers four different pathways for students from which to choose: Teacher Preparation, Cyber Security, Paralegal Studies and Inspection Technology.

Recently, first-year Avalos Principal Stephen Heady and a group of seniors sat down to reflect on their last four years. Heady said this class was a special group of students who will leave a lasting legacy for other classes to follow.

“This group brought a lot of energy and spirit to our school,” Heady said. “They’re very unique. They have strong and outgoing personalities. I, along with our faculty, our very proud of what they’ve done over the last four years.”

Heady, who has 30 years of experience in the field of education, previously served as an Assistant Principal at Blanson CTE High School, said the first graduating class has definitely made an impression over the last four years.

“They feel a lot of ownership to this school. They basically put it together,” he said. “And they’ve done a lot of good work in this community. They are very close because there are only 103 of them and they’ve accomplished a lot.”

Indeed. Valedictorian Jason Coreas will attend Harvard, while Salutatorian Jocelyn Suerte will attend the University of Chicago. Others will attend Tulane, the University of Richmond, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College (both are part of the Claremont College System in California).

“This was a very driven class,” Heady said.

Heady added the partnership with Lone Star College was also a positive experience for the students.

“This school model is unique. We’re all figuring it out together,” he said. “The partnership with Lone Star is really important. It gives kids exposure to college. We’re proud that 44 of our students received an associate’s degree this year. And other will receive theirs this summer.”

Members of the first graduating class said they enjoyed their four years at Avalos and not only enhanced their future academic careers, but they all developed a bond that will never be broken.

“I thought it was a very positive experience,” Jason Coreas said. “We all got really close. There were no cliques. Everyone got along.”

Jason will major in political science at Harvard, while Jocelyn Suerte will major in computer science at the University of Chicago. Cristian Flores-Zavala will attend Ponoma College and major in Astro Physics and Astronomy, while Monica Flores will attend Harvey Mudd College and major in Psychology. David Alvarez will remain in Houston and enter the work force in the industrial inspection field.

Monica admitted she did not give much thought to attending Avalos P-Tech HS, but her mother insisted she give it a try, and was she ever happy she listened to her mother.

“My mom kind of forced me to register, so I did,” Monica said. “I do not regret it. I’m so glad I went here. We developed a tight-knit community and this school is very special to us.”

Over the last four years, Avalos students have volunteered with LULAC on voter registration campaigns, assisted with Hispanic Heritage programs, volunteered with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, volunteered with Christmas and Easter events and other community based events.

The students all agreed it was important for them to give something back to the community.

“Because of what we learned here, we will all continue to be active when we move to our new communities,” Jason said.

Jocelyn said she and her fellow seniors were proud of the work they accomplished over the last four years and believe they have left a legacy that will endure for future graduating classes.

“We helped set the tone for what this school can be,” Jocelyn said. “This is a unique opportunity and we hope others embrace it like we did.”

Cristian said the small class sizes helped him come out of his shell.

“I was super shy as a freshman and I didn’t talk a lot, but now, I’m outgoing and you can’t shut me up,” he said, with a laugh.

David Alvarez said he was thankful for the opportunities and hands-on experience he received by working in labs. He said he is looking forward to entering the work force with a lot of confidence.

“I really liked the labs,” David said. “We learned a lot about safety and I enjoyed the hands-on training in the labs. Being a part of Avalos has helped set a career path for me.”

Cristian said he also appreciated the Avalos staff who took a vested interest in each and every student.

“My teachers were always asking me what my path was,” Cristian said. “I appreciated that. It seems like I heard that every day I was here. You could tell they really cared about all of us and what we wanted to do with our lives.”

Although many of their fellow classmates will move across the country in the coming months, they know they will remain in contact.

“I feel comfortable with all of my classmates because I’ve been with them for so long,” Jocelyn said. “We’ll definitely keep in touch.”

And while they look back fondly at their four years at Avalos P-Tech High School, each admitted it will be tough to say goodbye and they admitted, tears will be shed in the coming weeks.

Let’s hope they are tears of joy for a job well done.