Harker Heights High School top-10 graduate Sarah Kennison and chosen teacher David Rosenbaum pose during the Starmakers awards event with Huckabee Architects representatives LaShae Baskin and Jason Andrus.

In a year clouded with uncertainty, Killeen ISD’s top scholars continued to shine.

School district and community leaders joined proud parents recently during a KISD Education Foundation Star and Scholars celebration to award some of the district’s brightest luminaries.

In back-to-back ceremonies at the Killeen High School auditorium on May 26, the Education Foundation awarded a total of $122,400 in scholarships and gifts to 55 graduating seniors and their chosen, most influential teachers.

Superintendent John Craft and generous foundation donors praised the high-achieving students for succeeding under extraordinary circumstances and urged them to continue to share their talents and pursue their dreams.

The Scholars and Stars event began with the foundation’s annual scholarship ceremony that named 55 soon-to-graduate seniors as recipients of numerous local scholarships.

Following an intermission that included food trucks and entertainment from Shoemaker High School’s Pandemonium steel drums in the renovated KHS auditorium lobby, the second half of the double feature celebrated the district’s Starmakers achievers.

“Honoring our top 10 students and scholarship recipients is the highlight of the Foundation’s year,” Director Joyce Hodson said. “When we started planning in January, COVID was still in full swing and we had to adapt and re-imagine the ceremony to comply with CDC guidelines.”

“This ‘not so normal formal’ was very different this year, but I think the students and teachers were still given the honor they deserved.”

Principals from Early College, Ellison, Harker Heights, Killeen and Shoemaker high schools presented their top 10 ranked Class of 2021 seniors along with their chosen teachers. Five premier donors distributed awards.

To culminate the celebration, Meredith Spears presented her family’s $10,000 Kliewer Leadership Award and a pair of $2,000 finalist awards to three surprised top-10 students.

A surprised and thrilled Anastacia Herberger received the leadership award.

Besides graduating among the top 10 in her class, she has performed as a Harker Heights High School Crimson Belle, been a tutor to children and taken part in National Honor Society, Student Council and other activities.

“I’m absolutely surprised,” she said following the ceremony. “It’s a great honor and I’m just really thankful for all (the Kliewers) do.”

Dreaming big has never been a problem for Herberger. She is set to attend the University of Texas and study aerospace engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut and traveling to Mars.

Harker Heights High School seniors Kosisochukwu Eneli and Raphael Dela Cruz received the Kliewer Leadership finalist awards.

The top 10 ranked students at KISD’s five high schools each received $500. Their chosen most influential teachers each received $200.

One of the Harker Heights High School top-10 honorees, Jakaiyah Franklin, participated in both ceremonies reading an inspirational poem. She chose her high school theater teacher Amanda Kennedy.

“It feels good,” Franklin said of reaching the end of a school year and ending near the top of her class. “It’s a feeling of fulfillment and pride to see the hard work pay off.” She praised Kennedy for helping her grow as a student and a person.

“This is a culmination of why we work as hard as we do,” Craft said, referencing the pair of award ceremonies and alluding to next week’s high school graduation ceremonies.

“It is like a rush of emotion,” said Harker Heights High School senior Genesis Seibel, a scholarship recipient a National Merit Commended Scholar student. “It means everything … that they would put their faith in me.”

Following are the top 10 graduating seniors and their chosen Starmaker teachers from Harker Heights High School:

Harker Heights High School

Raphael Dela Cruz

Celneque Bobbitt


Marissa Noel

Jakaiyah Franklin

Amanda Kennedy

Anastasia Herberger

Suzanne Thompson

Sarah Kennison

David Rosenbaum

Gloria Kim

Monica Pedraza

Ju Hee Julia Lee

Joshua Kroft

Elizabeth Lim

Mauela Gardner

Sebastian Nau

Bunkley Morris

Jaime Nava

Katherine Mork

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