Aguilar family
All 11 Aguilar children graduated from Lufkin High School as of Friday night. Every year since 1990, there has been at least one child attending LHS. Pictured with each of their diplomas are, from left, bottow row, Agustin Jr., Maria G., Bethzabeth Sabas, Maria, Agustin Sr., Samantha, Teresa and Cesar. Top row, from left, Eddie, Luis E. Jose and Juan Carlos. Maria holds a picture of Ricardo, who is serving in South Korea with the Air Force. Agustin Sr. holds Ricardo's diploma.

When Bethzabeth Aguilar walked across the stage at Lufkin High School’s graduation Friday night, she fulfilled her parents’ lifelong dream: to become the last of 11 siblings to accomplish the exact same feat.

Every year since 1990, the Aguilar family has had at least one child attending LHS.

Starting with Agustin Jr. graduating in 1993 and ending with Bethzabeth this year, the family has a long-standing history with the school.

Following Agustin was Luis in 1994, Samantha in 1996, Juan in 1997, Cesar in 2000, Jose in 2001, Eddie in 2002, Ricardo in 2004, Maria in 2006, Teresa in 2008 and Bethzabeth.

Eddie Aguilar sent an email to the Lufkin Independent School District administration office thanking the staff for what he called “an opportunity of a lifetime.”

“After settling in Lufkin nearly four decades ago, my parents had a goal of raising a large family around the three most important components in life: faith, family and education,” Eddie Aguilar wrote in his email. “Growing up, our parents always mentioned that we could have a prosperous life with a great education, which we received from Lufkin ISD. My siblings and I have all continued our education after graduating from LHS in the fields of law enforcement, education, business, armed forces and engineering.”

After graduating from a prestigious technical school in Mexico, Agustin Aguilar moved to Lufkin in 1972. Education always played a significant role in the way he raised his family.

“I wanted a big family, but I wanted a quality family,” Agustin Aguilar said. “This is my dream come true. I want to thank Mr. Roy Knight and the counselors and teachers for helping to instill confidence in my kids and the ability to reach their goals.”

The road to graduation was not always an easy one.

The children all attended St. Patrick Catholic School. At times, the Aguilar family worked at the school, cleaning buildings or mowing the grass, in order to pay tuition.

Agustin Aguilar Jr. said he feels nothing but pride and joy as he watched each of his siblings cross the stage.

“It’s beyond words to see all of my brothers graduate and become something,” Agustin Aguilar Jr. said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment and pride at the same time. It’s something that can’t be explained in words. It’s a sense of accomplishment not just for me, but for my parents and for all my brothers and sisters put together. It’s a feeling that we did it. Finally we’re all 11 Panthers.”

The siblings agreed it was their parents’ determination that kept them going throughout the years.

“Our parents are the basis of everything that represents our school ethic and work ethic,” Agustin Aguilar Jr. said. “It all comes from what they instilled in us to accomplish whatever we set out to do.”

So far, six children have graduated from college, three more are in college, one son is serving overseas in the military, and Bethzabeth Aguilar said she plans to attend Angelina College in the fall and eventually wants to study architecture at Texas A&M.

Both parents insisted high school was not the end of the education journey.

“They pushed us to do more than just high school,” Samantha Aguilar said. “High school was not the stopping point. It’s just the beginning.”

“Our parents wanted us to get an education after high school, whether it took five years, 10 years or 12 years,” Luis Aguilar said. “They always said, ‘Just go for it and it will take you somewhere in life.’”

After years of attending LHS graduations, Bethzabeth said it was an unbelievable feeling to be sitting on the field of Abe Martin Stadium as a Cum Laude graduate.

“I couldn’t believe I was there,” Bethzabeth Aguilar said. “I felt like it was someone else sitting there. I was ready to get my diploma. When I went to my brother’s graduations from college, and they had all graduated at least Cum Laude, I wanted to do the same.”

The Aguilar’s mother, Maria, had mixed emotions as her last child crossed the stage, diploma in hand.

“I was happy and sad because it was my last one,” Maria Aguilar said. “It’s very important they get an education. This is the future and the best thing they can accomplish in life.”

Melissa Crager’s email address is mcrager@lufkindailynews.com.