BELTON — Belton High School’s top graduates are valedictorian Jacob Jimenez and salutatorian Marcus Ake.

Jimenez is the son of Amy and Raymon Jimenez of Belton. Ake is the son of Ania and Arthur Ake of Belton.

Graduation for Belton High will be at 7 p.m. May 30 at the Bell County Expo Center, 301 W. Loop 121.

Jimenez said the example of his parents and other relatives motivates him to excel.

“My dad always told me to do everything with all my might, and so trying my absolute best in everything I did has always been my mantra,” he said. “His parents were Mexican immigrants, and so … going to college, him going to West Point — education really saved them from the poverty of being migrant workers.”

Ake said he has been working to be one of his school’s top graduates for a long time.

“It was really important to me because I’m going to be a first-generation college student, and both of my parents have had to work really, really hard for what they’ve earned, and so I’m just trying to do the same thing — just work hard and do the best that I can do,” he said.

Jimenez did not consider aiming for class valedictorian until seeing his high standing in freshmen class rankings at the beginning of his high school career.

“That was another avenue I could become my absolute best in,” he said.

Ake plans to attend the University of Oklahoma to study meteorology. Learning about severe weather has been his passion ever since an incident at his family’s former home in Killeen when he was a kindergartener.

“We were all sitting on the couch, and the lights in our house flickered,” he remembered. “There wasn’t a thunderstorm, it was kind of just a cloudy day. We turned on the TV to a news station, and they showed a tornado going through a park in my neighborhood.”

The tornado was just a few blocks from the Ake family home.

“Since we didn’t have any warning, and it wasn’t a very strong storm, it’s just been my goal to do what I can to help people … get out of Mother Nature’s path,” he said.

Ake said he didn’t know at the time how dangerous a tornado could be, but once he did, he was fascinated.

“I just kind of didn’t completely grasp it — I knew that something good wasn’t happening,” he said. “After that, I wasn’t scared, it was just like something just switched. I felt like this was the reason God put me on earth, for meteorology.”

Jimenez will attend Harvard University in the fall. He knows he wants to be an engineer, but is not entirely certain what direction that will take in his college career.

“The engineering mantra is like solving the world’s greatest problems,” he said. “Even though I’m not passionate about a single problem … I want to learn the problem-solving techniques.”

He tentatively plans to major in engineering sciences.

“The reason I chose Harvard is because it’s a way to get a broad education about the broad range of issues you can study … and have a couple of years until you decide” what your concentration will be, he said.