Dressed in blue graduation attire, the Midlothian High salutatorian walked the halls where his education began — Mount Peak Elementary.

As Fabian Zubieta attempted to recognize teachers' faces, he reminisced on the memories at Midlothian ISD, as well as his time spent doing what he loves most.

Since Zubieta was in the eighth grade, he volunteered at 14th Street Veterinary Clinic. The unpaid internship started out as a weekend gig and eventually evolved into a daily basis.

He initially assisted with office duties and slowly caught on to the veterinarian jargon and aided veterinarians with medicine.

"It turned into a game where I would guess and see what medicines they would need, and I'd just verify that to myself in my head," Zubieta said while representing the salutatorian medal around his neck.

The interest in animals sparked when his sister's 15-year-old chihuahua died.

It was sad but intriguing at the same time.

When Zubieta was not in the vet's office, he played soccer, which he has participated in since he was four years old. He also represented the Panthers on the junior varsity team his freshmen and sophomore years.

"I saw that I had more of an opportunity academically than going through sports," Zubieta said. "I had to make the tough decision to focus on academics."

The sacrifice in athletics stemmed from a sibling rivalry as his older sister, Rosita, graduated third in the MHS Class of 2010.

"She kind of set the bar and an example, so we've always had the competition to see who the smartest was," Zubieta explained. "It was friendly, but that inspired me to do well."

Zubieta will attend Texas A&M University to major in economics and study along the pre-veterinary track. Eventually, he hopes to graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which serves as one of only 31 veterinary colleges in the United States and Canada.

"I am ready to close this chapter and move onto a new one," Zubieta expressed. "I've heard so many wonderful things about A&M from my sister, so I'm ready to embark that journey."

The vet program at A&M is an additional four years, with three in the classroom, and the final year consists of clinical rotations at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Zubieta wants to specialize in ophthalmology, which would add another three to four years of education.

"There's a lot of books in the vet office, and I saw the ophthalmology pages, and I also am blind," he joked. "Like not really blind, but I like really need glasses."

Zubieta disclosed his glasses prescription is negative 5.27 and 5.75.

A NEW TAKE ON LIFE

The life event that shaped Zubieta into the person he is today occurred early this spring.

One morning after Zubieta filmed a scholarship video, he noticed the left side of his face was paralyzed. He and his mother reviewed the video and realized they needed to go to the doctor.

"That really affected me in the way that it was a stressful time. I've started to grasp who I am and start to not be stressed out and freeing myself," Zubieta explained.

Zubieta was required to eat a strict diet and tape his eyes shut for bed. Although he has made significant strides in gaining movement and feeling in his face, he expects to fully recover in the next year.

"From that experience, I've learned that stress is a mental thing," he elaborated. "It's truly not helpful in situations, so I've been able to calm myself."

If Zubieta could go back in time and give some advice to his freshman self is to "not stress" and to get more involved in school culture.

Something that most people do not know about Zubieta is that he is Hispanic and that both of his parents were born in Mexico. Zubieta loves to embrace his culture and travels to Mexico annually.

Zubieta thanked his parents and sister for all of their support as well as Rook and his staff. He also noted the several relationships he developed with MISD teachers.

"They are there to teach, but they are also there to help you grow and excel with what you want to do," he concluded.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450