Redefining Success Spotlight: First Class of 2023 Graduate Ava Gillis

Ava Gillis GraduationThe senior year of high school can go by in a blink of an eye. For Ava Gillis, her senior year lasted about a week and a half. Gillis became the first Coppell ISD Class of 2023 graduate on Aug. 26, 2022, when she completed the Turning Point program at Victory Place @ Coppell. 

Gillis decided in January that she wanted to graduate from high school early. In addition to Turning Point, Gillis took dual credit classes while working. She says there were only two weeks in 2022 when she wasn’t in school. 

“I chose Turning Point, because I wanted to streamline my graduation date, and the program allowed me to do that,” Gillis said. “Everything they do for you is helping you towards graduating. They know all of the credits and classes you need to complete in order to graduate.”

The Turning Point program at Victory Place @ Coppell provides accelerated learning for students, who work at a faster pace on an individualized curriculum to achieve a high school diploma and to prepare for their next step in life, including college, the workforce, specialized training or the military. 

The community and personal connection with teachers are what Gillis liked best at Victory Place. 

“You know everyone's names by day three,” Gillis said. “The teachers want to get to know you and learn about your plans after graduation and what you want your life to look like, regardless of what that looks like. There's no judgment, and you can tell they all want to be there.” 

Gillis credits her Turning Point English teacher Britany Gable, as well as the other educators at Victory Place and her student peers for helping her achieve her goal. 

For Gillis, success means being happy. 

“Not everyone has the same goals in life, and being successful does not only mean going to a good four-year college to get a good job and to have a lot of money,” she said. “In reality, it doesn't matter how much money you have, as long as you like your life.”

“We each have goals for ourselves and to achieve those, that's what defines success. It's different for everyone, and that's what makes it amazing.”

“Victory Place isn't somewhere that gets a lot of recognition, but the students who go there put in a lot of work to get to where they are and to get to where they're going,” Gills added. “We don't know everyone's situation at home and to see these students, my peers, working hard toward their future is inspiring and makes me hopeful.” 

Gillis says that her family is proud of her for graduating early. 

“They supported me through the entire journey and allowed me the space to figure out the best way to accomplish my goal of graduating early,” she said. “They saw how hard I worked these past few months and are just proud of me for all the accomplishments I’ve made.”

Gillis plans to take some time before starting college to learn how to adult.

“I have a very curious mind and want to explore a world outside of the CISD school system, a world outside of my suburban town. I've lived in the same town and in the same house for as long as I've been alive and my mind has been itching to get out. I want to become independent and learn about myself and what I like before starting college because once that starts, I want to keep going till I earn my Ph.D. This time in between is important to me, because I get to decide what to do with it.”

Gillis is currently working at All Care Veterinary Hospital and plans to attend Colorado State University to study wildlife conservation and biology.  She plans to get a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees before working in the field of conservation.