When St. Pius X High School celebrated its graduation on Saturday, May 23 at The Showboat Drive-in Theater in Hockley, two of the school’s top scholars were honored. Valedictorian Gia Cabacungan and salutatorian Xiya “Victoria” Yu had pre-recorded speeches that attendees watched on a big screen and listened to in their cars.
“I’m glad we (could) do something that brings us together,” Cabacungan said.
Her speech was about obstacles the senior class had overcome, with Hurricane Harvey their sophomore year and the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
Cabacungan found out about her honor at a recent Friday school parade where principal Diane Larsen gave her the news.
“They don’t rank us,” Cabacungan said, noting that she just knew she was in the top 6 percent of her class.
Cabacungan, who lives in Vistas at Klein Lake, has attended St. Pius since her freshman year. She attended St. Edwards Middle School in Spring.
She will attend the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in biology, specifically plant biology. Her interest in the subject was driven by her favorite St. Pius teacher, Sister Kelly Biddle.
“She is my inspiration,” Cabacungan said. “She talked about the research she did in college. We did a plant unit in biology, (and) I really enjoyed it.”
Cabacungan might want to focus on crop research and how to make crops grow stronger in less welcoming environments, or she may want to manage a botanical garden.
She was a percussionist in the band for four years and said Robert Carlin, the band director, is also someone she greatly values.
“He really pushed me and encouraged me as a leader,” she said.
Cabacungan also served on student council and the honor board. She was a member of the National Honor Society and Key Club.
At school, she said her biggest challenge was time management, balancing band practices with her commute to and from school as well as her studies. Her biggest lesson?
“Learning not to worry about what other people think,” she said.
Yu got a call from Larsen the evening of the parade because she hadn’t been able to attend.
She also was at St. Pius for all four years and attended St. Jerome Catholic School in eighth grade. Before that, Yu lived in China. Her parents are still there. Since Yu’s speech was pre-recorded, she hopes her parents will be able to see it, too.
“I talked about how COVID doesn’t stop us from moving forward,” she said.
Yu also named Sister Kelly as a favorite teacher, having her for freshman year biology.
“(She) really took care of me,” Yu said. “I was nervous.”
Her sophomore honors English teacher, Mrs. Hibbs, was another favorite.
“She was very hard (and) graded really hard, but I improved my English,” she said.
Yu plans to attend either the University of California in San Diego or UCLA. She has not decided on a major but is thinking about economics or business administration.
While at St. Pius, Yu was president of the International Club, introducing fellow students to other cultures through various events, and was also a member of the Student World Affairs Council, attending off-campus meetings and lectures. She served on the Color Guard her sophomore year.
Yu said her biggest challenge in high school was the language barrier.
“I was so shy and my English was horrible,” she said.
By junior year, though, Yu was more familiar with the culture of the school and more confident.
“My friends really helped me to talk and hang out,” she said.
Her biggest lesson was try out for the things she wanted to do.
“High school is really short,” Yu said. “I remember my first day.”
Yu expressed her gratitude to the St. Pius community.
“They helped me out with everything I needed,” Yu said.