At Ellison High School on Thursday, retired Sgt. Maj. Scott Denson addresses freshmen and sophomore leadership academy students during a panel discussion, along with Alex Gonzales and Jim Yeonopolus. Later in the evening, the three were honored with three others as Killeen Independent School District Distinguished Alumni. Read more about them in Sunday’s Killeen Daily Herald.

Three seasoned Killeen Independent School District alumni shared their wisdom with Ellison High School Leadership Academy students Thursday afternoon in advance of the evening’s Distinguished Alumni Award and Student Scholarship Reception at Central Texas College.

“Life is a race, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said alumni Alex Gonzales.

Gonzales, a Killeen High School graduate who now serves as an attorney in Austin, has accomplishments including a Master of Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley and a lengthy naval career.

“Why the rush?” he responded to a student who asked what the three men would have chosen as their careers in high school. “When you go to college, it will be four of the best years of your life. You have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do.”

Retired Sgt. Maj. Scott Denson, a 1985 Ellison graduate, used his time to share tips he picked up throughout his accomplished military career.

“Whatever you choose to do in life, do it to excellence, and find a mentor to go to for guidance,” he said, stressing the importance of commitment in reaching one’s goals.

Denson’s motto while in the military was “professional by choice.”

“I made a conscious decision every morning to be professional, no matter what the day throws at you,” he said.

Jim Yeonopolus, a Killeen High School graduate who currently serves as the president of the Continental and International Campus Operations at Central Texas College, pushed the students to seize the opportunities before them.

“This generation has more opportunities than any generation that preceded it. Technology allows you to do things we couldn’t have done,” he said.

Gonzales echoed Yeonopolus’ sentiments.

“You are blessed because you’re getting an education from one of the best districts in the state, if not the country,” he said.

Ultimately, Yeonopolus suggested the students do what they enjoy when choosing a career.

“You can change your abilities, but it’s hard to change your interest pattern,” he said.

All three alumni reiterated their enthusiasm for the Leadership Academy and its students.

“Those in this class have chosen to commit to do better,” Yeonopolus said to the attendees.

Each man acknowledged that his path to success was not linear, and failure is a natural occurrence in life.

“You’ll change your mind a couple of times about what you want to do,” Denson said, “(but) this club here motivates me. You are encouraged.”

Contact Madison Lozano​ at or 254-501-7552.

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