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Illinois Teen Follows In Her Grandmother's Footsteps By Making History As Her High School's First Black Female Valedictorian

Illinois Teen Follows In Her Grandmother's Footsteps By Making History As Her High School's First Black Female Valedictorian

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!

A Illinois teen is looking to continue her family’s legacy of academic excellence, becoming the first Black female valedictorian in her school’s 159-year history, just 61 years after her grandmother graduated as a valedictorian of her high school, My Central Oregon reports. 

Nina Mitchell is making history, graduating with a 4.5 GPA from DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Illinois and becoming the first Black female to become valedictorian in the school’s 159-year history. Mitchell worked hard to achieve the accomplishment, serving as president of the Honor Society and Key Club. Founding the Spanish Honor Society, serving as part of the principal’s advisory board, participating in volleyball and track and acting as a founding member of a peer mediation group, and that’s just in school. Outside of school, she continued to serve her community, working as the first Black chair of Youth Engaged in Philanthropy, a subsidiary of the Illinois YMCA Youth and Government, and serving as a member of the Youth Advisory Council. Needless to say, there was never a dull moment. 

But Mitchell said she was just following the path laid for her. You see, 61 years ago, her grandmother, Pearlene Carter graduated as valedictorian of Walker High School’s class of 1959 in Coldwater, Mississippi. And her two older brothers graduated sixth and seventh in their class at DeKalb High. 

“I didn’t get here alone. My parents always set me up for success, and my brothers inspire me to do better. My grandma has always been an inspiration for me, and a role model. She’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s always bragged about me to her friends and has made me feel so loved,” Mitchell said. 

While she said she was humbled and honored, she really hopes she can just serve as inspiration for other students. Her father echoed those sentiments, emphasizing that while her academic accomplishments were honorable, he has always been more focused on her character as a person. 

“I know Nina has gotten a lot of attention for her academic achievement and leadership skills, but why I’m most proud of my daughter is she is a good person. She treats people with kindness and respect. She has a wonderful heart and is just a great human being,” Darren Mitchell said. 

The 17-year-old has been accepted to multiple colleges including Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She plans to enroll at the University of Illinois as a business major with the goal of becoming a lawyer. 

“I am representing Black students and female students. They can look up to me and say, ‘Wow. Nina did it, so I can do it.’ That was really important for me,” Mitchell said. 

Congratulations Nina! The possibilities are infinite!

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