Beyoncé Salazar-Brown is the second person in her family to attend college. The other being her older sister.

Salazar-Brown was one of 65 Red Oak High School seniors who committed to the next step of their education during the school's Academic Signing Day on Tuesday morning.

"We're just super proud," sister Stacy Salazar said. "We tell her all the time at home, and I think maybe sometimes that can be repetitive, and this is a way we can share her success."

Salazar-Brown, 17, decided to follow in her sister's footsteps and attend Southern Methodist University in the fall. She wants to major in biology and hopes to become a veterinarian or an anesthesiologist.

Salazar-Brown said it was a cool experience being able to commit to her future school in front of her peers, teachers and family.

"Of course your parents are proud of you, but here she gets to feel completely immersed in the experience," Salazar said.

The 65 students sat at tables lined with their future school colors and held up their prospective hand signs to their parents in the crowd.

Red Oak ISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Goddard said academic signing day is an important part of celebrating the seniors who are planning their next steps in academia. Athletic signing day is a traditional part of high school, but Red Oak wanted to go beyond its athletes, he added.

"This is something that is lifting up those who may not have a chance and to celebrate that many of these kiddos are the first in their families to go to college," he noted.

Goddard said some of the students are following in their parents' footsteps, and signing day was a way to show the students that they have support back at their alma mater.

"It's taking an opportunity for students to be lifted up when they make a commitment to not only go to their next step in their educational career but for them to know they are loved and supported by the Red Oak community," he said. "As they make that commitment, it's much larger than just saying, 'I'm going to school.'"

Red Oak High School principal Dr. Miller Beaird said all of the school is proud of the achievement of the students signing.

He explained signing day was a perfect way for the students to celebrate their hard work over the past four years and their commitment to continue that hard work.

"We want to celebrate everyone that has gotten accepted," he added.

Miller said it was great seeing the students wearing their future school colors and the different universities they chose to attend.

For Salazar-Brown's mother, Debra Tanksley, this was the day she couldn't wait for.

Tanksley raised her two daughters as a single parent and said she is proud her daughters are going beyond what she accomplished.

"It's been a struggle," she said through tears. "It makes me so proud that she worked so hard she achieve what she achieved."

She said she was a strict mom and always told her daughters, "don't be like me, don't struggle in life." The one way to ensure they wouldn't struggle was through a college education.

Tanksley made both her daughters poise with each other holding SMU pennants and wearing the school's logo on their chest. There isn't a doubt in her mind that her daughters will have successful careers ahead of them.

She said Salazar forged the way for Salazar-Brown to follow suit. But Salazar, who is a lawyer, disagreed.

"She's not filling my shoes," Salazar explained. "She's making her own footprint."


Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty