Student Becomes High School’s First Black Valedictorian in 119 Years [Video]

One Texas high school senior’s friends describe him as a “living legend” and an “overall amazing guy,” an English teacher calls him “God’s superhero” – and now his graduating class will call him “valedictorian.” Kellin McGowan is making history at St. Thomas High School, one of the oldest private schools in Houston, Texas. He is the first African American valedictorian in the school’s 119-year-long history, a title he earned with his 4.57 GPA. “The guys here are really competitive academically,” Aaron Dominguez, principal of the Roman Catholic college preparatory school for young men, told KHOU. “They support each other. They hold each other up, but they’re also vying to be the very, very best.”

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McGowan was surprised when he learned he earned the prestigious title, but he believes that it may change some people’s perspective about race. “People have these misguided notions of what it means to be African American. I believe by seeing an African American do well in an institution like this, they can see there is more to us than what they think,” he told the outlet. ut McGowan’s accolades don’t end there. His academic achievements put him in an exclusive group of students at the school called the St. Thomas Club.

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In order to gain membership, a student must maintain a minimum 4.0-grade point average for seven consecutive semesters. B McGowan, who also serves as secretary of the National Honor Society, is a permanent member, KTRK reports. He is also this year’s recipient of the Albert R. Gaelens Award, which is given to the student who best exemplifies St. Thomas’s motto, “Teach Me Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge.” Seniors are nominated for the award by their peers, and then faculty votes on those who received the most nominations.

English faculty member Darrell Yarbrough calls McGowan a “superhero [with] a cloak of humility,” adding that the 17-year-old’s superpower is “his lightning-fast intellect.” “We don’t have to know everything – that is God’s job. And Kellin McGowan is God’s superhero,” Yarbrough said. McGowan plans to attend the University of Chicago, where he will study political science. He hopes to attend law school to become an immigration attorney.

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