HARLINGEN — Kennedy Kibler has always wanted to make the graduation speech.
She’ll finally get to do that Saturday when she graduates as salutatorian from Harlingen High School South.
“It’s a really great feeling,” said Kennedy, 18. “It’s honestly something I’ve been working toward all through high school. In the past I’ve always been looking up to the other kids who I’ve seen graduate as valedictorian or salutatorian, so it’s always been a goal of mine, especially after moving.”
Kennedy and her family moved here from Traverse City, Michigan, while she was still in middle school. The move compelled her to adapt to a very different environment on many levels. It wasn’t easy.
“It definitely threw me a learning curve and I struggled at first adjusting to the new learning,” said Kennedy. “We were learning totally different things. I didn’t know anyone. I was really struggling socially at first. So it was really hard.”
She sought the counsel of teachers for both challenges, seeking help to “get the hang of things not only academically but socially.”
The challenge presented a necessity which she met by studying harder — working harder — to adapt. And that translated into a strong work ethic which took her to the number two spot in her senior class. She pointed out that some people have the envious advantage of learning quickly without having to spend long hours studying.
However, her need to apply herself to long hours of study has had its advantages as well.
“For me it was about having priorities, knowing you need to study even if it means staying up late,” she said. “It’s always been, ‘I have to put in the work.’ If I want to do well, I have to work really hard, so it’s kind of just having that motivation.”
Obviously that sort of grit and focus will serve her well beyond high school. She’ll soon begin studying business at the University of Texas at Austin. Then, she’d like to study law and become a corporate attorney.
This is a very different trajectory than what she’d previously considered for a career goal.
“Ironically throughout high school I was always in health science classes, and I was kind of leaning more toward the medical field,” she said. “I kind of figured out it really wasn’t for me.”
So, what to do? She joined FBLA — Future Business Leaders of America — at Harlingen South to join friends in the club. This chance move revealed her true passion.
“It ended up making me realize that I really enjoyed business,” she said. “And law has always been something that I’ve always been passionate about, so I kind of decided I wanted to go more with the business law route.”