A brilliant girl named Toryana Jackson has broken the 56-year-old record of Henninger High School, New York. as she emerged as the first black valedictorian to graduate with an outstanding 4.00 Grade Point Average.
Toryana Jackson, a Syracuse, New York teen made history as the first-ever black student to graduate with the highest grade point since the inception of Henninger High School in New York. She did not only make history as the first Black valedictorian in her high school’s 56-year history.
Toryana was also the first Black valedictorian in the school district’s 173-year history. While a student, she was very active, participating in cross country and track for all the four years she spent in the school.
She said she was also a member of the Henninger band where she played the flute. Despite having a lot of extracurricular activities she participated in, Toryana made sure to stay on top of her studies academically.
Toryana said she also participated in Community-Wide Dialogue, a group that helped her learn more about social issues. She stated that she was more focused on graduating and preparing for college, especially with the coronavirus pandemic affecting her senior year.
She said it was not until she found out that she would be the class valedictorian that she discovered how historic the honor would be.
“I didn’t realize it until after I became valedictorian. My parents had Henninger do some research into their history and the Syracuse City School District’s history, and they told us that there have been no other Black valedictorians in Henninger’s high school’s history,” Jackson told Because Of Them We Can.
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She said her achievement came as a surprise to her. Toryana added that it shocked everyone stating that she received letters from elementary school students who expressed their desire to emulate her in the future.
“It was surprising. I honestly didn’t know that there hadn’t been any African-American valedictorians in the past. So it was a shock to all of you. I actually got letters from an elementary school, and some third graders wrote letters about me, saying they wanted to be just like me when they grew up. So it’s just inspirational,” she said.
Toryana mentioned that she also received a proclamation from New York State Senator Rachel May, and an electronic billboard highlighting her achievements in the city through community fundraising efforts.
Toryana’s father, Charles “C-Jack” Jackson, said he and his wife are very much proud of her achievements. “I’m super excited about my Princess! My Queen & I have always taught her and her brothers to shoot for the stars and beyond,” Charles Jackson said.
During her valedictorian speech, Toryana encouraged her peers to use their gifts wisely. She hopes her story inspires other Black girls to believe in their dreams. “I would just like to encourage younger Black girls and let them know that they can achieve anything as long as they put the work into it and are passionate about what they want,” she said.
Toryana said she was awarded a full scholarship to Wellesley College, United States where she plans to pursue a career in journalism.