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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.”

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