OLFEN - It has been a year of firsts at the Olfen Independent School District with the most significant change being the addition grades 9-12. In just a matter of days, history will be made, when the first graduates in the history of Olfen ISD will receive their diplomas.

OLFEN - It has been a year of firsts at the Olfen Independent School District with the most significant change being the addition grades 9-12. In just a matter of days, history will be made, when the first graduates in the history of Olfen ISD will receive their diplomas.

On Tuesday, May 22, Rachel Thomas, Amelya DeWall and Ashley Apperson, all 18, will walk across the stage at the St.Boniface Catholic Church and will become the first graduates in the more than 110-year history of the Olfen School. In 1900, nine families furnished the funds to build the Olfen School, for the dual purpose of having a school and a church, The first year the school opened it was run by a parish priest and the second year, it became a public school. In 1917 the building was enlarged and in 1920, it was remodeled. The school as it stands today, was upgraded and remodeled in the 1980s.

In the 2017-18 school year, the Olfen ISD Board of Trustees added grades 9-12 - previously the school only took students from K-8th grade.

“It is a breath of fresh air to have such wonderful students set the example for their peers,” said Olfen ISD Superintendent Gabriel Zamora.

Lizette Pacely, otherwise known as the first principal for Olfen ISD - in a long time - said she was proud of all three students, for making the sacrifice to come to the small, rural country school that has a total of 103 students from grades K-12.

“These students are very, very bright and willing to work hard,” Paceley said. “I am amazed at the bravery they had to be the first graduates of Olfen ISD. They will have a very bright future.’

All three of the girls are from San Angelo, where they attended Texas Leadership Charter Academy last year. DeWall and Apperson, who are sisters, and Thomas, all made the leap to come to Olfen, last summer, after receiving a pamphlet in the mail - which included an offer for another first for the school - the promise of free college classes. The district offers a slate of dual credit classes for all students 9-12 with the goal of having every Olfen graduate armed with 60 college hours at the end of their senior year. Since this was the first year, the first students graduate with up to 30-plus hours.

Thomas, 18, wants to go into nursing and will graduate this first year with 32 college hours. DeWall, also 18, who wants to go into contractor/engineering, will graduate with 32 hours and Apperson will graduate with 20 hours and plans to pursue cosmetology at Howard College in San Angelo.

“We all came because of the college classes,” said Thomas who will be the first Valedictorian for the school.

DeWall, who attended Olfen ISD in grades K-2, will be the first Salutatorian for the district, agreed.

“It is phenomenal to me - the faculty is willing to help you out and make sure you get your grades,” DeWall said.

All three grads helped as the district settled in with another first - offering a four-day optional week to students who were passing their classes. The trio of seniors helped with special trips on Fridays, where students traveled to San Angelo and Abilene for a variety of activities like going to the movie or visiting the zoo.

And, the students also helped organize the first chartered FFA organization at Olfen ISD. And the FFA students were able to compete in the Runnels County Junior LIvestock Show in January.

DeWall helped put together the first hardcover annual for Olfen ISD this year.

And all three of the graduates helped tutor the other students - which they called “tutoring the littles.”

“We all helped the kids on Fridays,” DeWall said.

Meanwhile, the three young women are looking forward to making history on Tuesday, when they will receive the first diplomas in Olfen ISD history.

And all three are still getting used to the idea.

“It did not kick in until last week,” Thomas said

“I never thought I’d have a chance to do this - to have college,” Apperson said.

“It makes me very proud,” DeWall said.

Zamora said he is looking forward to placing the diplomas in their hands on Tuesday.

“It was a big sacrifice to make such a change in their senior year,” Zamora said. “They know what they want and I am very excited to have the first graduation ceremony.”