Teen named school’s first Black female valedictorian 61 years after her grandma was valedictorian at another school

Twitter | ABC News

Nina Mitchell worked hard during her four years at Illinois’ DeKalb High School to forge her own path to success. The long hours of study and preparation brought the 17-year-old to the highest level of achievement in her class. Mitchell recently graduated as DeKalb High School’s valedictorian — and she is the first young Black woman to accomplish this milestone in the school’s 159-year history.

But academic success runs deep in the Mitchell family tree. Mitchell’s 75-year-old grandmother, Pearlene Carter, was Coldwater, Mississippi’s Walker High School Class of 1959’s valedictorian!

The 2020 valedictorian posed with her role model just after graduation. Mitchell shared the photo with ABC News to honor the woman who helped motivate her to go for her dreams, and ABC posted it to Twitter:

“My grandma has always been an inspiration for me, and a role model,” Mitchell told ABC News. “She’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s always bragged about me to her friends and has made me feel so loved.”

The recent graduate said the honor of graduating first in her class and its historical significance isn’t something she takes lightly.

“I was very humbled and honored. I am representing Black students and female students. They can look up to me and say, ‘Wow. Nina did it, so I can do it.’ That was really important for me,” Mitchell told “Good Morning America.”

The student council took to Twitter to congratulate the class of 2020’s top student, who is also the student council’s outgoing president, for her accomplishments and recent media popularity.

Becoming the valedictorian may be a singular honor, but Mitchell had other familiar footsteps to follow in, too.

Her brothers, 21-year-old Robert and 20-year-old Michael, both graduated from DeKalb High School in the top 10 of their classes. They attend the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Their little sister will continue the family tradition by enrolling as a freshman there this fall to study business and law. She also got accepted at Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern Universities.

Gies Business posted about her acceptance on Twitter.

Congratulations to this amazing young woman and her entire family! We see great things in her future!

Good News, News

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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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