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Student is the first black valedictorian in her school’s history

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins

A high school student in Queens, New York now has the distinction of being her school’s first African American valedictorian.  The story is making national news, even though there are many trailblazers of a similar sort around the nation.  But without regard to the context within which the story is being released, her achievement is nothing short of remarkable.

According to reporter Mona Rivera, Shanelle Davis is a senior at Benjamin Cardozo High School in the Bayside area.

“It’s an incredible honor. It’s still surreal to me,” she said.

Davis says that she found out from school administrators that she was the first African American to receive the award, which seemed to stun her.

“Out of 845 students and mine said number one. And then afterward I was speaking to administration in the school and they’re like ‘you know we’ve never had an African-American (valedictorian) before.’ Then that’s how I found out,” she said.

Davis sees her achievement as an example to other black students that if they give a diligent effort, they too can be standing on the stage as their school’s valedictorian.  The young lady is the first in her family to attend a four-year university, and plans on going to Harvard next fall.

“School is like, it’s very diverse, but it’s predominantly Asian. So most African-Americans in the school think that OK so since there’s been like always an Asian or a white valedictorian that they can’t do it. But then I can be an example for them to show that they can also do it. So maybe next year they’ll have another African-American one,” Davis said.

Davis’ accomplishment is certainly noteworthy, no question about that.  But when I read the story, I was a little surprised that it made national news.  There are black valedictorians all over the country and many of them are the first to do so in their high school.  So, I still can’t quite figure out why this story was told over the countless others that should be shared as well.

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