Tomball school district will have something that it has never had before in 2014; two classes of graduating seniors.
The first senior class of Tomball Memorial High School knows what it is like to be upperclassmen and campus leaders.
It's a mantle they began carrying as sophomores when the school officially opened their doors in 2011.
Tomball Memorial was part of the $198 million bond referendum voters approved in 2007. The high school cost $62.2 million to construct.
The 350,000-square-foot school opened in August 2011 to just over 900 freshman and sophomores from Tomball High School for the 2011-2012 school year.
"It was kind of hard at first because we had no idea what we were getting into," said senior Ashlynne Boles, 17, who is part of the Memorial drill and dance team.
This burden of leadership was thrust on the students by an unlikely source; their peers at Tomball High School.
While the students still have friends at Tomball High, the separation during the last three years has spawned a friendly cross-town rivalry between the two schools.
"We had to start everything at the school from scratch," said Memorial senior Nick Hudzinski.
"We had all those people telling us how much better Tomball High School was … and we had to live up to those standards."
Hudzinski, 17, who is in the band, serves on student council and also is in theater, was on board with his role as a leader.
New steel-blue color
He began replacing his Tomball red T-shirts with the new Tomball Memorial steel blue while he was still a freshman on the Tomball High School campus.
Long before the end of the 2011 school year, parents of soon-to-be sophomores received letters from Tomball school district about the shift and offered tours to students and their parents of the campus during the summer.
Many of the students took the tours, which allowed them to begin embracing the shift from Tomball Cougars to Tomball Memorial Wildcats.
Carol Houston, who has been the principal from the very beginning, talked about the students starting their own high school traditions in 2011, and the hope these students would handle the leadership role well.
"I want them to feel like they have a sense of purpose when they come out of school every day," she said.
"When they leave, I want them to say, 'I'm glad I showed up.' I want this to be an adventure for them, and I want them to try things they've never tried before because you never know what you might be good at."
Houston has not wavered from that commitment, and has allowed the students to put their brand on Tomball Memorial.
Raising prom money
Students have established events, Pink Out to raise awareness for breast cancer, participated in Red Ribbon week to raise awareness on drug abuse, participated in the Christmas parade in Tomball and became involved in several booster clubs.
They have also helped raise money for their first ever senior prom, Hudzinski said.
The school has also wasted no time in establishing a winning tradition.
Since opening their doors in 2011, Tomball Memorial has been recognized on the state level in basketball, football, baseball, volleyball, swim team, band, choir, orchestra, cheer, theater, track and dance.
"I am so incredibly proud of what our students have accomplished," Houston said.
"These kids took on leadership positions at the tender age of 14 and 15 that they would not have had at THS.
"They had to step up to the plate and fill that. We've had out bumps in the road, but they have come out on the other side remarkably well.
"This year will be a fun year."
Life lessons learned
Despite the fun of being the head of the class and starting something new, there were also the life lessons the students gleaned from their teachers, and with the end in sight, there is a bigger sense of accomplishment among the seniors.
Boles and Hudzinzki said they will probably shed tears when Houston hands them their high school diploma in June.
"I don't want high school to end, but at the same time, I want to start college," said Boles, who plans to attend Sam Houston State University.
"It will nice to come back (one day) and see what we've made."
Hudzinski, who hopes to attend the University of Texas after he graduates, said the end of his high school journey will definitely be bittersweet, but being the first graduating class of Tomball Memorial has given him and others to be part of something special.
"I will be so proud to walk across that stage," he said.
"In my head, I will have been here for three years. We are the first class."