In less than four months, Paul Phung and Hira Ahmed will be two of the 54,369 undergraduate students at Texas A&M University in College Station.
As they walk to classes amid the Maroon-clad sea of Aggie students, few of their classmates will know the remarkable story of their educational success in a community 100 miles south of Aggieland.
Phung is graduating as the 2019 Valedictorian of Stafford High School, and Ahmed is the 2019 Stafford High Salutatorian. There are 248 seniors in Stafford’s Class of 2019. They’ll both have a chance to speak at the 2019 SHS Graduation on Friday, May 24 at Texas Southern University in Houston.
Both seniors are Stafford citizens, and they’ve been classmates at Stafford MSD since Phung enrolled at Stafford Elementary as a second grader. Ahmed began attending SMSD in Pre-K.
They’ve been in band together since their days at Stafford Intermediate and joined the National Honor Society, the Peer Tutoring Program and Student Council when they were Stafford High freshmen in the fall of 2015.
“Being the Valedictorian shows all of the hard work I’ve put into high school,” Phung said “I couldn’t have done it without all of my teachers.”
Or his older sister, Vanessa Phung, the 2016 Stafford High Valedictorian who is now a junior at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
“She motivated me and helped me with my schoolwork,” Phung said. “After she graduated from Stafford, it was on me to succeed.”
Phung and Ahmed credit one another with their success. Ahmed, the youngest of three Stafford MSD graduates, said her parents played a big influence in her life.
“My academic success was always about making my parents proud,” Ahmed said. “They always had high expectations, and I liked meeting them.”
Both Phung and Ahmed were enrolled in all Advanced Placement and Dual Credit College Courses this year. Dual Credit is a program where Stafford High students can take courses through Houston Community College.
They’ll start Texas A&M with ambitious academic goals. Phung will study Chemical Engineering with plans to work in research or the corporate world. Ahmed will major in Environmental Science and hopes to do research or attend law school after college.
They said that Stafford prepared them academically for A&M, and noted that even though the university has a large enrollment – it still has a small town feel.
“It’s the college version of Stafford,” Ahmed said.
Leaving Stafford will be bittersweet, Phung and Ahmed agreed.
“it’s not scary, but we’re doing something new and leaving everything behind,” Phung said.