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Illinois Teen Named Valedictorian Sixty Years After Grandmother Earned the Same Title

An Illinois teen followed in her grandmother’s footsteps by graduating at the top of her class.

Nina Mitchell, a recent graduate of DeKalb High School, is the first Black female valedictorian in the school’s 159-year history. She graduated with a 4.549 graduate point average.

Dekalb High School graduate Nina Mitchell (left) is the first Black female valedictorian in the school’s 159-year history. Her grandmother Pearlene Carter (right) was valedictorian of her high school class in 1959. (Photo: University of Illinois Admissions/Facebook)

“I was very humbled and honored,” the 17-year-old told “Good Morning America.” “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 isn’t the only high achiever in her family tree. Her brothers, Robert and Michael, both graduated in the top ten percent of their classes at the same school in DeKalb, a distant suburb of Chicago. Additionally, their grandmother Pearlene Carter was the valedictorian of her high school class in 1959. The teen credits her family for motivating her success.

“I didn’t get here alone. My parents always set me up for success, and my brothers inspire me to do better,” she said. “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.”

Darren Mitchell, her father, appears to be extremely proud of his daughter, who he says sacrificed her social life to earn high marks. Nina and her brothers were raised to value education.

“She’s always been a hard-working student and a voracious reader,” he recalled to Midweek News. “She’s always loved reading. [She and her brothers] didn’t grow up with video games, but they had books, Scrabble, puzzles and Legos.”

In addition to her stellar grades, Nina was voted homecoming queen last year and served as class president for all four years of high school. She has also performed more than 150 hours of community service and served on the boards of several organizations. Nina was accepted to Harvard and Stanford universities but decided on the University of Illinois, where she will study business on a full scholarship.

“It’s so important to get good grades and get involved, not only at school, but also in your community,” Nina told Midweek News. “If you work hard to accomplish your goals with dedication, you will get there, but it is no easy feat. I had tremendous teachers at Cornerstone and DHS. I’ve had incredible opportunities. DeKalb has definitely shaped me. I didn’t get here alone. My brothers, parents, family and friends and the community supported me along the way.”

What people are saying

8 thoughts on “Illinois Teen Named Valedictorian Sixty Years After Grandmother Earned the Same Title

  1. Kateye62 says:

    You keep rising to the top.

  2. Lynda Purdom says:

    What an uplifting article.
    Seems that family has not only great tradition but real family values and focus.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Finally some good wholesome news!!! I’m bursting with happiness for someone i don’t even know as if she were my own daughter. I guess I’m hungry for good news. Let’s celebrate ad post more goodness like these more often!!!!!

  4. S Green says:


  5. Jo Ann Thomas says:

    Congratulations on your accomplishment 🙏🏾👸🏾🎉

  6. Crystal says:

    God Bless Nina ! God always has a Ram in the Bush … Good News in the Storm .. He’s showing everyone he’s still performing Miracles and Wonders as He’s the same Yesterday ~ Today ~ and Forever More.
    Let’s grab ahold to Hope ~ and call on our Faith ~ and Trust in the Lord to Guide usjust as Nina did and watch how we can Soar far above our Storm and give back as Nina will.
    Her Future is bright and yours can be as well. Just put your Hope in Jesus ..Nina God Bless you and may the Lord continue to lead and guide your every footstep …
    Praise Jesus Hallelujah to his Name ….

  7. Melida Munoz says:

    I don’t know you but stories like this make me cry. You are an inspiration to not only black females but to any female who wishes to succeed. Everything is possible with a little push, family support and most of all Faith. Have faith and God will embrace you and guide you. Your family has alot to be grateful for. God bless you and your family.

  8. Peggy says:

    This very article proves we as a Black race have always been capable from the beginning of time …read the Bible and history and down to generation to generation. As is other races we need not “feel” less than…EVER! We need not “feel” incapable…EVER!
    We are BLESSED which means “favored” by God Our Father, our Lord and our Savior; if you believe.

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