A black student has made history by becoming valedictorian at the St. Thomas High School in Houston for the first time in 119 years. Kellin McGowan is the first black student to receive the academic honour at the all-boys college preparatory school since it was founded in 1900, according to a local CBS station.
The 17-year-old beat his peers with a 4.57 GPA.
“The guys here are really competitive academically,” Aaron Dominguez, principal of the Roman Catholic college preparatory school for young men, told KHOU.
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“They support each other. They hold each other up, but they’re also vying to be the very, very best.”
McGowan was shocked when he realized that he had earned the prestigious title, but he is hopeful that the feat will change people’s misconceptions about race.
“People have these misguided notions of what it means to be African American. I believe by seeing an African American do well in an institution like this, they can see there is more to us than what they think,” he said.
McGowan’s outstanding academic achievements placed him within the school’s prestigious St. Thomas Club, which is for students who maintain a minimum 4.0-grade point average for seven consecutive semesters.
The Houston senior, who also serves as secretary of the National Honor Society, is now a permanent member of the St. Thomas Club.
He is also this year’s recipient of the Albert R. Gaelens Award, which is given to the student who best exemplifies St. Thomas’s motto, “Teach Me Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge.”
According to local media, seniors are nominated for the award by their peers, and then faculty votes on those who received the most nominations.
McGowan is a “superhero [with] a cloak of humility,” said English faculty member Darrell Yarbrough, adding that the teen’s superpower is “his lightning-fast intellect.”
McGowan plans to attend the University of Chicago, where he will pursue a degree in political science. He hopes to attend law school to become an immigration attorney.
Meanwhile, he has offered words of encouragement to other young adults who are not sure of their abilities.
“You can do anything that you set your mind to.”
“And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything,” he said.
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