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Young Female Scholar Makes History As Illinois High School’s First Black Valedictorian

A focused and dedicated student has met her goal to become the first Black valedictorian at her Illinois high school.

“Our first African-American valedictorian,” Superintendent Creg Williams announces during the school’s graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 17, to enthusiastic applause.

Nnyla Lampkin has known since her freshman year at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, Ill., that she wanted to make history.

“Going into the lunchroom, you see like a line of pictures for every valedictorian,” Lampkin says of the images of past white scholars. “I noticed that there are no African-Americans up here yet, nobody up there had looked like me and I was like, ‘Let me try to be the first one.’ ”

Lampkin became the first Black valedictorian in the school’s 57-year-history by taking honors and advanced-placement courses. She earned a 4.36 GPA, a full point higher than salutatorian Frances Romero, to claim valedictorian honors. Romero also made history by becoming Thornton Fractional’s first Latina salutatorian.

“I’ve spent 19 years here and I’ve seen a demographic change,” principal Jake Gourley says, “and I think it’s a wonderful breakthrough moment for our school.”

Lampkin, who will attend Howard University in the fall to study political science, wants to inspire others to know that if they work hard for something, they can make it happen.

“We all have a wide variety of accomplishments as the Class of 2017, so that’s what I wanted to focus on, not me myself,” Lampkin says.

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