A 17-year-old West Morgan High School student achieves academic success despite the bullying he faced from peers.
Austin Elliott will become the first Black male valedictorian in his high school’s history and has been preparing for his graduation speech, according to the Decatur Daily.
Elliot said he wanted to be all the way “real” about his school experience to inspire other students who may be dealing with the same adversities.
“I was bullied by a few, very few, of my classmates, and most of it was racial bullying,” the student told the news source. “I was verbally bullied in both middle and high school.”
However, Elliot’s good friend Lucas Johnson said that never stopped his friend from exceeding academic expectations.
Johnston and Elliot have been friends since the third grade and plan on attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville together. He said that Elliot “was so much smarter than everyone else.”
“He never came to school upset and took his education seriously. He’s always been a very good friend,” Johnston said.
Elliot made a decision from early on to be a representation of his high school “in the best light I could.” He placed his focus on academic success and chose not to react to bullies because that would mean he was just like them. The student also took his principal Keith Harris’ words to heart.
“We ask our students to leave the school better than they find it,” the principal said. “Austin has certainly done his part and more,” Harris stated.
The principal along with counselor Natasha Burks were the first to deliver the delightful news in February to Elliott and his classmates.
“It’s generally never good when the principal comes to get you out of class, and I thought I was in trouble,” exclaimed Elliott who later found out he was the first Black male valedictorian. He also learned that West Morgan’s first Black valedictorian ever is physician-scientist and professor Wonder Puryear Drake.
Elliot jokingly said, “Some big shoes to fill.”
The student said he’s always placed his grades first in his life and is graduating with a 4.5 grade-point average. He also admitted to being bullied because of his skin color and was often called the n-word, which only motivated him more.
One of the student’s older sister Angel Elliott said she and the family considered transferring Austin from West Morgan.
“But he wanted to stay and fight through it… He wanted to show them who would come out on top in the end,” Angel said.
Austin hopes his graduation speech resonates with others who have similar experiences.
“We are one school, one student body and one community, regardless of skin color or anything else,” said Elliott. “I’ve had some good experiences at West Morgan, and I hope people hear this in my speech.”