There is no rivalry between John Tyler's top two students in the Class of 2019, and it could be because they are family. 

Cousins Josue Gaona and Jose Romero have taken the top spots in the high school's senior class.

The two have worked hard and served in various campus organizations together, their favorite one being the National Honor Society.

Gaona, the class valedictorian, said the organization teaches students the value of volunteering, being grateful and giving back to their community. His cousin agreed.

“It really builds character,” Romero, the class salutatorian, said.

Romero said the memories he made competing in debate tournaments were also some of the best moments of his high school career.

While the cousins have had each other for support since they were little, this fall they’ll be off on their own.

Gaona will remain in Tyler studying biology at the University of Texas at Tyler as he starts down the long path toward becoming a surgeon.

“I like the instant gratification (aspect),” Gaona said. “You go in and fix it and you’ve helped someone right off the bat.”

Meanwhile Romero is headed much farther away from home. He’ll be attending the University of California at San Diego to study ecology and begin working toward becoming an environmental scientist.

Romero said he loves doing research and there’s no better time to go into that field.

The last few years on campus have seen construction crews beginning a $90 million renovation at John Tyler, but for this year’s seniors it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Romero said his class is pretty used to construction, with their early years attending elementary campuses also being rebuilt. Since 2007, the district has rebuilt or renovated nearly every campus currently in use.

“I think a lot of education is the environment,” Romero said. “It’s a good thing for the newer generation (of students).”

John Tyler students are set to move into the newly constructed portions on campus in January. The 400 students of the class of 2019 will be the last to graduate before classes move into the new state-of-the-art academic wing, marking the end of an era for Tyler ISD.


Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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