LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A sign for every senior student litters the road in front of Lufkin High School and sets a record for the district.
For the first time in Lufkin's history, more than 500 seniors have plans beyond the high school campus.
"It's just a blessing in disguise that everybody gets an opportunity like this," said Javante Mack who plans to attend Tyler Junior College.
Mack will be the first one in his family to graduate from high school and attend college.
Domonique Flores has a similar story and is proud of her classmates.
"Knowing that everyone is graduating, going into college or joining the military is an awesome feeling," said Flores. She's joining the U.S. Army and plans to be a lawyer.
"I feel excited because all of our class is going to be doing something for ourselves," said Kalandus Hunt who plans to attend the University of St. Mary in Kansas.
The GEAR-Up program has been working with every senior since seventh grade.
It's funded through government grants and designed to get students to think early about their options after graduation.
"When it came time to apply for college, they were ready before we were," said Lufkin ISD GEAR-Up Coordinator Jennifer Williams.
About 200 of those students are going to Angelina College and a record number, 38, will be headed to College Station.
"I'm about the proudest papa in East Texas right now," said Lufkin ISD Superintendent Roy Knight.
However, the grant money for GEAR-Up runs out this year.
They've re-applied for funding, but with government budget problems there are no guarantees.
"The scary part is when budget cuts cause you to dismantle programs like GEAR-Up that help us have the opportunity to ensure that kids are in fact, college ready," said Knight.
From two and four-year colleges to technical schools, and military bases, Panthers will be coming to campuses across the nation this fall, making panther nation extend far beyond Lufkin's city limits.
Knight said their job is not done yet. Being accepted and getting financial security is only part of the process. Still, the feat sets a precedent for future students.