North Carolina Senior Makes History As First Black Valedictorian At High School In 100 Years

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June 13, 2023

She’s paving the way!

Alecia Washington is a senior at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, WXII 12 News reports. An active student, Alecia stayed involved in extracurricular activities throughout her time in high school, serving in the Ebon Society, as vice president of the Student Government Association, and as a member of Youth Grant Makers, helping create grants for student-led organizations. 

“I was able to be a voice for those who didn’t feel like they were heard. I was able to bring that to my principal and bring that to the school board members if we wanted to make change,” she explained. 

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Now she’s made even more change, earning top honors at school and making history as the first African-American student to be named valedictorian at R.J. Reynolds High in 100 years. The historic achievement is one Alecia is very proud of, and one she hopes continues to inspire other Black students. 

“When I started thinking, this is so much bigger than me, like representation matters. I know that’s important. I know from experience, representation definitely matters. When you see somebody that looks like you, and something you want to do, or passionate about, it makes a huge difference. It’s not something I take lightly at all,” said Alecia. 

Her graduation this past weekend marks her second in just two months. Not only did she earn her high school diploma, but Alecia also recently graduated with her associate’s degree from Forsyth Technical Community College. The teen said she was nervous to enter her next chapter of life but also very excited, crediting her family and school counselor with greeting her this far. 

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“[My great-grandmother told me] if you’re going to invest in anything, invest in yourself. Invest in getting a good education and expand your knowledge because that is nothing nobody can take away,” Alecia recalled. 

Her mother Lavonya Washington said she’s very proud of her daughter’s historic achievement, regarding those who paved the way for her to get her, like the first Black student who attended R.J. Reynolds High School after its integration. 

“Her name was Gwendolyn Bailey. She set the foundation for Alecia. I think about the challenges that she faced as a student, and it made it possible for Alecia to have this title today,” said Washington. 

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The moment was emotional for both Alecia and her mom. As the two close out this chapter, Alecia is ready to start college, earning a full academic scholarship to UNC Charlotte where she plans to pursue her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse anesthetist. 

Congratulations Alecia!

Cover photo: North Carolina senior makes history as first Black valedictorian at high school in 100 years/Photo Courtesy of Louie Tran/Twitter/WXII 12 News

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