Saturday, June 22, 2024

Views from the top

Valedictorian Rebecca Marx and salutatorian Anna Preston speak on journey to the top of their class

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AZLE — On May 24, Azle High School seniors will say goodbye to high school and hello to the rest of their lives at a Fort Worth Convention Center graduation ceremony. To usher them into this next stage of their lives are two students who have managed to come out on top through their four years together. Rebecca Marx and Anna Preston will represent the graduating class of 2024 on-stage as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Marx and Preston are both lifelong Azle ISD students.

Marx is involved in AP Ambassadors, National Honor Society and Students Advocating for a Viable Environment. Since her first high school transcript, Marx has led her class academically and has also performed as a star athlete.

“Obviously, I wanted to be towards the top, but I was already one my freshman year — I was first,” Marx said. “And so, when I got that paper, I was like well now it’d be embarrassing to go down, so I’ve got to stay here.”

Naturally competitive and a self-described perfectionist, she has been on the varsity soccer and track teams all four years of high school, and has been a team captain and attended regionals for the last three. During the sports season, Marx will sometimes be at the high school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. before returning home to study.

Marx plans to attend Baylor University, where she is enrolled in the Hankamer business scholars program, to double-major in accounting and management information systems. After graduating, she hopes to be an accountant like her mother. Marx has high aspirations and hopes to work for one of the big four accounting firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler. The valedictorian said her parents, Larry and Susan Marx, not only have inspired her career path but are also the first in a long list of individuals who she said have helped elevate and encourage her to always aim high.

“They never put any pressure on me to do well, but they were supportive instead,” Marx said. “They were very supportive through everything, whatever I wanted to do. I decided to quit band and they supported me through that and (supported) the things I did choose to do in the end like soccer and track.”

AHS accounting teachers Kelsie Jones and Rachel Bevan have been a critical resource for Marx in discovering her interests. Marx also credits the Gifted and Talented program and her elementary school teachers for further encouraging her along the path of success.

“Jones is good at life lessons,” Marx said. “They both showed me that there’s more you can do than just sticking with one thing through your life … (GT) gave me teachers who really challenged me in areas where I probably wasn’t being challenged before. My third grade teacher Mrs. Reasoner and then my fifth and sixth grade teacher Mrs. Browning were both very big on making sure to challenge us to do the best we can.”

Marx has four older siblings who have also attended Azle schools: Aaron, Austen, Grace and Eva.

“Eva, my older sister by two years, has definitely been one of my biggest supporters in my life ever,” Marx said. “She encourages me in every single thing I do ever and she’s way too sweet to be my sister. She’s way too nice. She’s just always been there for me. She is just so happy for everything I do. I really appreciate her.”

This star student recommends always putting your best foot forward in everything you do in order to succeed now and in the future.

“I think doing your best in anything is always worth it,” Marx said. “I am definitely proud of where I am, and I would say the work was worth it because I’m pretty sure I would have done the work no matter where I ended up. I’m just a pretty competitive person in general so I like to be the best at things but I’m glad when my peers do well and they’re glad when I do well. It’s definitely been a chance for me to grow and get comfortable because I’m overall a shy person, but I have had these classes with the same people for four years, so I do feel a lot more comfortable moving around in those same classes and being able to speak up. They’re all very nice and I love them all.”

Azle’s salutatorian, Anna Preston, also has money on her mind, with dreams of one day becoming a chief financial officer.

“I really have a strong personality and am a risk taker,” Preston said. “I think I’d be able to sit down and tell all these big people at a company, ‘hey, what you’re doing is wrong and you need to do this instead.’”

Also involved in NHS and SAVE, Preston plans to attend Texas State University in San Marcos for a degree in finance. Currently, she also serves as the senior class treasurer. Unlike Marx, whose fear of public speaking leaves her dreading May 24, Preston is thrilled to address her peers.

“I definitely am excited for my speech,” Preston said. “I have a couple lighthearted moments in there; I’m a really good speaker and I love speaking. It’s exciting. Right before I get up there, I’ll be a little bit nervous, but I think I’ll be good.”

Preston credits her sixth-grade math teacher, Suzanne Dye, for getting her on her “school grind.” Preston still fondly remembers Dye’s “boom chakalaka” which punctuated games and lessons. Today, the two stay in close contact through text message.

“Dye, she sat down with me and was like you’re so smart you work hard, you can be up there Anna, you can be val or sal,” Preston said. “At the time I was kind of just like, ‘yeah, whatever’ I never thought I would be here, and she definitely planted that seed for me and throughout my high school year my mom and dad and papaw were all very big supporters of me.”

Preston also credits her mom Kelly Preston, her dad, Robert Preston, her little brother Robbie and her “papaw” Norman Hagan for supporting her through it all.

Both Azle’s valedictorian and salutatorian said the weight of college courses made a big impact on their grade point averages throughout their time in school. Going into high school, Preston did not plan to be near the top of her class.

“I kind of just stumbled into it,” Preston said. “Freshman year, some guy took my paper when we got our first transcripts ever and was like, ‘you’re number four.’ I was like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ just because my parents always drilled in me make good grades. Also, I took a dual credit class my freshman year and I definitely think that boosted my GPA. Basically, I got here by staying dedicated to my work studying and there were times where I had to say, ‘hey, I can’t go out’ or whatever with my friends because I had homework or an exam the next day. It took a lot of hard work and dedication and a lot of college classes. I started as number four and then I went down to five and then from five I went back up to four and then I jumped to two my senior year.”

Preston said she has learned to appreciate the few breaks she can get during testing season where she spends her evenings studying for hours on end. Like Marx, Preston encourages her peers and future students to give 100% when met with any obstacle.

“It definitely was worth it,” Preston said. “I’m very honored to be where I am. Even if I didn’t want to do the work my mind would not let me not do the work. So, just how I am I had to keep going and stay strong and I’m very proud to be here … Always strive for your best even in your moments where you want to say, ‘I’m tired of this, I want to give up’ just keep going because you’ll get to the end and once you cross the finish line, you’ll have bigger and better things to go into.”