Making the Grade: Avery Speaks (Pasadena Memorial High School)

Pasadena Memorial junior archer Avery Speaks has a story to tell.

"When I was 11, I got diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia," she says.

"Having cancer does not mean you can't achieve success. She just took that negative and flip-flopped it, and she became the best she could be because of that negativity," says coach Lloyd Love. "She's influencing the rest of our team to be great, and I am just proud to be a part of that."

And for Avery to be a part of the 2019 state championship team, shooting 3D IBO, making them one of the top teams in the state, Avery first had to put up the fight of her life.

"Well, I had to go to the hospital once a week to get chemo, and sometimes I would have to stay for weeks at a time to get in-hospital treatment. And then I would – after that, after I got chemo for a certain amount of time – I just had to go once a month. Then, I was in treatment for two and half years," she says. "Then, I rang the bell, and now I'm cancer-free." Since 13.

During treatment, at age 12, she was 5'6", 52 pounds and had a feeding tube. But, now?

"I'm like 135 pounds now. I'm 5'8". My shoe was like a size 4. Now I'm wearing a size 10," she says. And eating everything in sight.

Fast forward to today, she's a leader who placed first in the state in girls' archery and second overall last season. She advanced to the nationals in May.

She is racking up the scholarships because of that ability and confidence, which also translates to the classroom. Avery is one of the top students at Pasadena Memorial. What is her favorite subject?

"Science is my favorite. I've always been interested since I was a little girl. I've always been interested in everything science. I would literally sit in my room and research all these different science things," she says. "I thought I was going to grow up and be a scientist."

"As a former science teacher myself, I can say it's hands on. It's real life every day. And she gets to apply the knowledge she's getting in the classroom, through labs and other fun activities. So, I can see why she loves science so much," says assistant principal Shaun Owen.

"Her cup was half full. Now it's brimming over, and she is exceptional, and she's obviously showing it throughout the state of Texas for everybody to see," says coach Love.

"She's moving on with her life, and she's doing great things inside the classroom. She's doing great things in archery, as well," says assistant principal Owen.