celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

Son is family's first grad

Doctor-to-be hopes siblings will follow suit

By Dan Packard

Johnny Napihaa III hopes to start a family tradition.

When Napihaa accepts his diploma from Highland Park High School on May 30, he will become the first high school graduate in his immediate family.

"I'm hoping my sisters and my brother will follow in my footsteps," Napihaa said.

"I'm really nervous," the 18-year-old said. "Being the first, I don't know how it's going to feel. It might feel like a huge joy rush."

His mother, Becky Aragon, already feels the rush.

"I'm excited," Aragon said. " I have no words for it. He's already got his cap and gown. Once I saw him in his cap and gown, I just started crying. I'm walking on cloud nine."

Cloud nine is a long flight from Napihaa's early school years, when test results showed signs of dyslexia and he struggled to make his grades, his mother said.

"He's coming out of that now," she said, and he will graduate with a 3.0 grade-point average.

Napihaa's early academic years weren't easy, he said.

"When I was little - elementary school and middle school - I read everything backwards," he said. "It's a weird thing, too. I like to read. I've overcome that quite a bit."

He said his favorite books are novels by Tom Clancy and the Harry Potter series.

He hopes soon to be reading medical textbooks.

Napihaa plans to use his high school diploma to jump-start a career in the medical field.

"It would help me attain more goals to go higher to become a doctor or a surgeon," he said.

"I'm looking forward to going into the medical field," Napihaa said. "I was watching 'ER' with my grandmother. It looked cool, so I decided that's what I'm gonna be."

His father, Johnny Napihaa II, did not graduate from high school but obtained his GED and attended Amarillo College, so his son's graduation is "pretty special," he said.

"He's a good kid," said the father, press room superintendent at the Amarillo Globe-News. "We're real proud of him and we look for bigger and better things and that he'll get where he wants to go."

The younger Napihaa has three sisters - Haley, 16, Makayla, 12, and Alexys, 7 - and a brother, Mason, 3.

The graduate-to-be attended San Jacinto Elementary School, Tascosa High School and Palo Duro High School before he transferred to Highland Park his in sophomore year.

His mother credits the smaller number of students at Highland Park for her son's success.

"Highland Park is such a smaller school, teachers have time to have one-on-one time with students," she said.

The move to Highland Park "was kind of difficult at first, going to a school of such size difference," Napihaa said.

Napihaa joined the football team his junior year and the golf team as a senior, he said.

At Highland Park, Napihaa said, he had personal conversations with teachers and got help when he needed it.

He works part time at the Sonic Drive-In, 2220 S. Ross St.

Editor's note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.

Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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