There are occasional days, Xenia Munoz acknowledges, when the alarm clock rings and her eyes slowly open and she thinks to herself, “Arrrrrgggggh, I don’t want to go to school today.”
But not often.
Fact is, she hasn’t missed a day of school in the Keene ISD in 13 years. If that’s not some sort of record, it should be.
You’d think the girl would be sick occasionally. If she is, she apparently heals quickly so she can be at one of her favorite places in Johnson County. Keene schools.
That’s why, she said, perfect attendance isn’t that big a deal for her.
“It wasn’t that hard,” she said. “Everything I like to do is at school. My friends are here. My mom [Roxana Munoz] is right next door. She teaches at the elementary school.”
Even when she isn’t starting the day with a smile, she said, she’s pretending to. Then soon enough, all is right with the world.
“I always have the same routine getting ready for school,” she said. “I have to be here early since mom has to be here at 7:30. I like it. School is a good place to be.”
Munoz is special in ways other than her attendance.
She carries a catchy nickname, The Warrior Princess. If you have to ask why, you haven’t watched much fantasy TV.
She’s attractive and personable.
Her classmates look to her for leadership. So do her teachers and administrators.
“She’s a quiet leader,” Wanda Smith High School Principal Sandra Denning said. “Her biggest asset is that she leads by example. She doesn’t have to speak. The others follow her because she does the right thing.”
Graduates such as Munoz are difficult to replace.
“You can teach kids the right leadership characteristics, but a lot has to do with natural abilities and parenting,” Denning said. “I’d use her as an example of a student for any child to emulate. She’s approachable, helpful and patient. She’ll be good at anything she chooses to do.”
The district’s valedictorian with a 3.9 grade point average, Munoz has been involved in Beta Club, National Honor Society, FCCLA, athletics, church and principal advisory [committee].
The latter is particularly significant. Group members are selected because of their active involvement in school issues. They’re asked to help stamp out bad behavior such as bullying.
“The teachers mostly handle that, but if it keeps going, we do an activity to show the students it’s not the right thing to do,” she said. “We haven’t had a bunch of problems.”
FCCLA is what it stands for — Family Career Community Leaders of America.
“We do a lot of community service,” Munoz said. “We help at food banks. We show others that we’re trying to be leaders, and we show them how to be leaders.”
Munoz has a strong leadership model at home.
“My mother,” she said. “She’s always been there for me. She’s my role model and hero. She always talks to me whenever I need her. She knows the right thing to say to me to keep me going.”
Not every parent is so supportive.
“I think it’s really important for parents to set a good example,” Munoz said. “That’s who we see every day. A parent is a role model.”
Munoz said she was excited to hear the news she was valedictorian. She’s worked at it.
“I try my best, and I do my best to study. My grades are very important to me. My favorite class is math. It just comes to me.”
Munoz has no interest in packing her bags for college. She’ll be going down the road to Southwestern Adventist University to study physical therapy.
“My mom was in an accident and cut her pinkie [finger]. I went with her to physical therapy and got interested in it. Since then, I’ve wanted to be a physical therapist.
“I wanted to go to school close to home. I love home. I like this town. So many people say, ‘It’s small. It’s boring.’ I want to go out in the world, but I want to make a difference here, too.”
Before starting college, she plans to work at a week-long Adventist camp in Austin.
“They do worship and have many activities,” Munoz said. “I want to work as a counselor. Then I’m planning to do a college class online. I did a college English class this year and made an A. It was pretty tough, but I learned a lot of new things, too. I got some ideas of how college was going to be.
“I’ll have to study harder in college, but it’ll be fun, too, because I’ll meet new people.”
Munoz has earned scholarships for being valedictorian and vice president of her class. Each was for public school, and SWAU is private.
“Southwestern Adventist has given me some money — not a lot, but it helps,” she said. “I already have a job on campus as a gym worker.”
If you think Keene is proud of Munoz, you’re right. It’s a community that takes care of its own. That may be part of the reason she’s comfortable there.
“It’s a safe environment. The people are nice,” she said. ‘Going to school here has been a blessing.”