Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories profiling East Texas high school graduates.
KILGORE — Brayden Vancil hasn’t let physical challenges dim the lights on his decorated Kilgore High School career.
The livestock showman won awards on local and state stages over the past three years, and he’s set to graduate Friday night among the top 11 percent of his class — though he’s maintained a humble spirit and deep appreciation for friends, classmates, school faculty and others.
“The biggest thing for me is my disability,” Vancil said about Henoch Schönlein Purpura (HSP), an inflammation of the blood vessels. For Vancil, HSP causes the right side of his body to be weaker than his left, forcing him to use a walker, scooter or crutches for mobility.
“That makes my daily life tougher,” Vancil said, but he later added, “I have great friends and they help me big time. My good friends have always had my back and helped me in whatever I need.”
He’s a multiple champion in the agricultural world.
In 2016, his lamb won the reserve championship at the annual Harvest Festival in Longview.
A year later, he competed at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo and won reserve champion for his mini Hereford heifer.
And last year, Vancil claimed the grand champion goat title at the Harvest Festival.
He recalls the joy and accomplishment he felt especially after the Houston show because it was his first project involving cattle — a larger animal, “and it took a lot of time with her,” he said.
“Having spent all of that hard work and finishing at the top, it made the adventure and obstacles to overcome worth it in the end,” he said.
He’s graduating with a 96.67 grade-point average, placing him 25th in his class of 244 students, but livestock showing and keeping his grades up weren’t completely a solo endeavor, he said.
He uses an assistant to help in livestock shows, which along with feeding and washing the animal adds to his training time in order to be successful in the show ring.
“It’s a different process for me to show it because I have to use a walker, so I have to train the animal and the other person to show with me,” Vancil said.
Friends and school staff help him transfer from his scooter to a desk or to open doors, he said.
“My friends and staff have been welcoming of me and helped me no matter what problems I’ve had, whether it was to get a paper I need to turn in when I’m not there or anything,” he said.
Vancil plans to attend Tarleton State University in Stephenville to major in animal sciences. He’s looking forward to college and starting a new chapter in his life, making and meeting new friends and pursuing a degree that he’s excited about as well as furthering his education beyond college, he said.
He also has a parting message to his Kilgore schoolmates and teachers.
“I just want to say thank you for all of your help along the way and to always be the best version of yourself you can be,” he said, “and if you put your mind to something, you can always accomplish it.”