Copperas Cove High School valedictorian Noah Gonzales has been working on his graduation speech to his classmates for several weeks.

“For me, at least, it’s difficult to find a topic that...I feel is pertinent enough and impactful enough,” Gonzales said ahead of tomorrow’s 2 p.m. graduation ceremony at the Bell County Expo Center.

He joked that his mom was really taking an interest in what he planned to say.

“She tried to keep the message the same,” Gonzales said, smiling. “She was trying to proofread to (make) sure it’s formal enough.

“I have to beg her to put jokes in there, basically.”

Salutatorian Abdiel Hernandez-Lopez has also worked on his speech.

“I’ve started typing it, at least,” Hernandez-Lopez said as he sat next to Gonzales last week in an office at Copperas Cove High School.

Despite any struggles they might have with their graduation speeches, the two seniors are eager to face the challenges awaiting them in college.

The top two graduates share a love a science, though they’ll be studying different disciplines in college.

Gonzales is the son of Erica and Vincente Gonzales of Copperas Cove. He plans to study computing at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“It has one of the best computer science programs,” Gonzales said, “and it gave me a lot of money.” He didn’t quite get a full ride, but will wind up paying a lot less than he would have at another college.

His four years at UT-Dallas are just the first step on a long educational journey for Gonzales. He plans to use his degree in computer science to start his career, then continue his education in hopes of getting his Ph.D. Eventually, he’d like to study more theoretical forms of computer science such as quantum computing.

“Those are the interesting fields,” Gonzales said.

Hernandez-Lopez is the son of Glenda Lopez and Jose Hernandez. He plans to become an aerospace engineer, and he’s already taken steps to reach that goal. He participated in the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars program, building a model Mars greenhouse as part of the rigorous coursework he completed.

“The opportunity to take a course that was created by NASA that met educational standards...that just wasn’t an opportunity that I could pass up,” Hernandez-Lopez said.

While the salutatorian talked very enthusiastically about his future focus on science, he’s also filled his high school years with sports and community service. He’s participated on the swim team, worked on projects at local nursing homes and at Fort Hood and served as a member of the Copperas Cove Youth Advisory Council.

Hernandez-Lopez plans to go to the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Georgia Tech. He’s excited about the possibility of joining a team of other engineers-in-training to design, build and fly their own plane as part of their studies.

He also looks forward to learning about the video game design club. It’s an interest he shares with Gonzales.

“That’s something I’ve wanted to get into for a while, but I just never had the time,” Hernandez-Lopez said.

“I took the (video game designing) class here,” Gonzales said. “It’s something we share and can relate to.

Abdiel has expressed that maybe he wants to work together to make a game.”

Asked if they compete against each other in video games, Hernandez-Lopez laughed. “I wish, but we don’t got time.”

Both believe their experiences as military kids have helped prepare them for the next stage in life.

“It really helps you adapt to change and changing environments,” Gonazales said of moving to different cities and different schools before winding up in Copperas Cove for his last three years of high school.

“Which I think both of us can agree is essential to college,” Hernandez-Lopez chipped in.

Both students are very grateful to their parents and their teachers for all they’ve done to help them toward success. But they will miss the friendships and relationships with teachers that they feel helped them during their high school years.

They both are looking forward to starting college and beginning their journey toward their goals, whether that’s advancing computer science or perhaps one day heading into outer space. When asked if he would join the Space Force even if it meant a one-way trip to the moon or to Mars, Hernandez-Lopez had a very concise answer.

“Sign me up,” he said, smiling.

dperdue@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7568

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