Joselyn Carvalho, 17, graduated at the top of her class at the Henderson K-12 Inclusion School on June 6. The Fields Corner native’s academic achievements earned her and 34 other valedictorians from the city’s school system an invitation to lunch with Mayor Martin Walsh. Her mother, Janette Carvalho, and her school principal, Patricia Lampron, accompanied her to the luncheon.
Receiving the award as her class’s top student was “definitely surreal,” said Carvalho.
“I wasn’t expecting it at first, but once I got the news, I was like extremely excited and I just said, ‘Okay, all of this hard work is actually paying off and I’m seeing results, which is amazing,’” said Carvalho, who traces her roots to Cape Verde and Puerto Rico.
During her time at the Henderson, Carvalho, who writes poetry and is a dancer, participated in numerous school events but also found time to raise awareness of issues beyond the campus by engaging others on social media.
A typical school day for her would include volunteering in the morning to play games with the mostly younger kids from kindergarten through 6th grade as they ate breakfast. She would then eat her own breakfast before taking an engineering class. Then, she would join up with the school’s women empowerment group, Vanguard, which she leads as president.
The program “took up a lot of my time…and just getting through that, taking care of all the girls, because we definitely created a sisterhood,” said Carvalho.
Carvalho was also the captain of the school’s debate team and she works with Teen Empowerment, a program out of Boston, Somerville, and Rochester, NY, that employ kids from ages 14 to 21, who, as leaders of social change, positively influence their peers.
Since she graduated, Carvalho is “definitely trying to get my voice out there. Teen Empowerment has given me a lot of connections to different outlets like dance studios. I do write poetry as well. So, I was also involved in a program called Grub Street where I got to perform my poems.”
Many of Carvalho’s peers and those who have worked with her see her as a natural born leader. To that, she responds: “I feel like school is something you can’t take for granted. I definitely just keep pushing and working hard because at the end of the day after all the work that everyone is doing there’s going to be a product at the end of the day and that product is going to be something great.”
Setting goals is another way to keep your mind on what’s important, Carvalho believes. She writes them down and considers each one attainable if she puts her mind to it.
“Valedictorian was up there as a goal,” she said. “It was a very high one. But seeing a goal that’s on a piece of paper and writing it down, it’s just like a first step, to be like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’”
Carvalho, who will attend Lesley University in Cambridge in the fall, says, “I knew I wanted to help kids. I wanted to do psychology, but I still wanted something with the arts. I’m going to be majoring in expressive arts therapy, which is the perfect match for me. That was actually the only school I applied to and I got in, with almost a full scholarship, which I’m so blessed and grateful for.”