Florida high school recognizes 1st African-American valedictorian, salutatorian

ByLeah Shields, WJXX
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Florida high school recognizes first African-American for both valedictorian, salutatorian
It is the first time at Jean Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Florida, that the top two students in the class are both African-American young men.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's graduation day for Ribault High School seniors. Two young men at the Jacksonville, Florida, school are making history.

It is the school's first time that the top two students in the class are both African-American young men.

"In elementary school, my sister graduated 8th in her class, actually from here, Ribault High School. From there, I kind of aspired to be number 1," said valedictorian Jeffrey Francis. "I seen that there weren't many African-American men who were valedictorian. So I wondered how I could inspire other African-American young men if I was valedictorian."

Their grades have been finalized, assignments turned in and their speeches written.

"I wanted to get rid of a generational curse. You know, like a lot of my family, some of them didn't graduate," said salutatorian Darrell Worrell.

Surprisingly, the two are friends, not rivals, who climbed the ranks together. They're the two students with the highest grade point average out of their class of nearly 300, WJXX reported.

RELATED: https://abc7chicago.com/chicago-urban-prep-college-signing-day-scholarships-bronzeville/11870088/

"Becoming salutatorian kind of more so fell in my lap. I did work hard for it, of course, but it definitely was like, oh I'm moving up in ranks," Worrell said.

If a long list of extracurricular and an associate's degree before a high school diploma is considered falling into your lap, then sure. Both teens have a long résumé.

While they were sitting there, they both discovered they are making history in more than one way.

"We just found out," said Worrell said. "I'm also a first generation college student."

The two said they've learned a few things throughout their four years of high school.

"You can do anything you set your mind to do," Francis said.

"And there is nothing wrong with being smart," Worrell added.

Both are looking forward to their next step in Tallahassee as Francis heads off to FAMU and Worrell to FSU.