City valedictorians include 12 from Dorchester, Mattapan

Elizabeth Murray, Special to the Reporter
May. 31, 2012

Valedictorian salute: A younger family member delivers a cell phone to Excel High School valedictorian Thao Nguyen as she received her award from Boston School Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Gregory G. Groover, Supt. Carol R. Johnson and Mayor Tom Menino. Photo by Elizabeth MurrayValedictorian salute: A younger family member delivers a cell phone to Excel High School valedictorian Thao Nguyen as she received her award from Boston School Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Gregory G. Groover, Supt. Carol R. Johnson and Mayor Tom Menino. Photo by Elizabeth Murray“We lay out the plans, we set the expectations, we provide the support for you students to help you along… I speak for all my colleagues here today when I say that each of you has surpassed by far those expectations. This year’s valedictorians, you are truly remarkable.”

These were the words of Rev. Dr. Gregory G. Groover, the chairman of the Boston School Committee, as he addressed a room full of students, teachers, school committee members and Mayor Thomas Menino at the 14th annual Boston Public Schools Valedictorians Luncheon on Tuesday afternoon. At the ceremony, 34 valedictorians from schools all over Boston were honored, including 10 from Dorchester and two from Mattapan.

The valedictorians from Dorchester are: Jeffson St. Cloud of Boston Adult Technical Academy; Chantal Barbosa, Jeremiah E. Burke High School; Angela Trinh of Dorchester Academy; Thao Nguyen of Excel High School; Geguel Landestoy of the Muriel S. Snowden International School at Copley; Amine Elmeghni of TechBoston Academy; Hang Nguyen of Urban Science Academy; Yohanny Medina Herrera of Urban Science Academy; Francesca Gonzalez and Lena Yee, both of West Roxbury Academy.

The Mattapan valedictorians are Daniel Felix of Boston Green Academy and Thuhang Do of Charlestown High School.

The citywide group is very diverse. Fifteen students were born outside of the United States in places like the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Vietnam, Haiti, Colombia, Nigeria, and Malaysia. Some were not even able to speak English when they first arrived in America and others will be the first people in their families to attend college.

Most of the students had to overcome serious obstacles to achieve success. Amine Elmeghni, a resident of Dorchester near Codman Square and the valedictorian representing TechBoston Academy, is originally from Morocco and will be the youngest student to ever graduate as valedictorian from his high school at 16 years old.

“Being 16 as a senior is a great obstacle to overcome since most, if not all, other students in my class are 18 or 19 and they’ve gone through much different life experiences,” Elmeghni said. “I’ve had to adjust in a great way in the past four years. I’ve done that by joining a lot of extracurricular activities, for example baseball and track and other sports.”

Elmeghni is the valedictorian in a class of 90 seniors and will attend Syracuse University in the fall to pursue a major in chemical engineering. He said he worked hard throughout high school and always did his homework, so he was not very surprised at his top spot in the class.

“I just think it’s a great honor to be recognized for all these achievements that I have completed,” Elmeghni said. “I feel like I have completed a lot, but I have a long way to go.”

His mother, Fatima Raji, said she really enjoyed the event and she is very proud of her son’s achievements.

“He’s a hard worker,” she said. “He deserves it.”

Angela Trinh, 19, originally from Vietnam, represented Dorchester Academy and said she was rather surprised when she was named valedictorian. Trinh currently resides in Ashmont.

“I usually didn’t pay attention to my GPA,” she said. “I just did what I was supposed to do. . .Whenever the grade was not what it seemed like it was supposed to be, I tried to work [it] out with the teacher.”

Trinh will be attending Denison University in Ohio as a Posse scholar. Each year, thousands of students nationwide are nominated for a Posse scholarship. Trinh is one of 10 students at her school who will receive the scholarship, which is given to students who exhibit extraordinary academic and leadership potential and who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes.

Meg Campbell, a member of the Boston Public Schools Board and a teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School, was sitting next to Trinh at the luncheon. She said Trinh’s receipt of the scholarship was a really big deal since she had to be nominated by someone in her school.
“If she’s a Posse scholar, she’s the top of the top,” Campbell said.

Trinh said she had to overcome obstacles on her way to becoming successful.
“We were moving around so much when I was younger, and I was retained for one year, so that was kind of like the drive,” she said. “Ever since my freshman year, I just had the drive.”

“I think it’s a true testament to what urban public education is in this nation,” said Dr. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. “This universal access to great education, which was started right here in the city of Boston, the birthplace of public education. Our founding fathers really believed that regardless of where you came from, you were entitled to public education and that it was important to the democracy’s success for the people, the citizens, to be absolutely well-educated.”

Mayor Menino started this luncheon event 14 years ago and has held it annually as a way to highlight the achievements of the students.

“These are very special students who excelled in their schoolwork, and we want to show the general public what great students we have in Boston and the progress they’re making in education in the public school system of Boston,” Menino said.

Menino said he was impressed with the diverse group of students and said their diversity represents the diversity of the city of Boston.

“It’s really the melting pot of America right here in this room today because all these kids from Haiti, from Morocco, from Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, they’re all here and they all did well in our school system,” he said.

The destinations of the valedictorians next fall are scattered around the country, but most notably, some will be attending Harvard University, Brown University, Northeastern University and Wentworth Institute of Technology.