Sylvia Mbah (left) and Timothy Ray are among the 75 graduating seniors that DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson named the "best and the brightest" students in the District.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson hosted a Scholars Luncheon to honor outstanding high school seniors, including valedictorians, salutatorians and student-athletes. Most of these high achieving students have full scholarships to universities across the country, from Columbia to Carnegie Mellon. And their success has not come without sacrifice.
Timothy Ray is the valedictorian from Ballou High School. His family has struggled financially and lived in homeless shelters for a while, but he says he was determined not to go down the path of drugs and violence.
"I had a couple of friends who died," he says. "I lost a lot of friends. They see me go in a different direction, and they didn't want to be my friends no more. I was determined I was going to graduate on top."
Every morning Ray would walk his two little sisters to their two different schools and then go to class himself. But he says it was worth it on graduation day.
"My mom was happy, she was ecstatic," he says. "It felt good to see her smile."
Sylvia Mbah is the valedictorian from Coolidge High School. She moved to the U.S. from Cameroon four years ago and was more fluent in French.
"I had to study twice as hard!" she recalls. "In English, I have to learn the words and then use it in sentences."
Mbah says she was motivated by all the opportunities available here, if she worked hard.
"Back home, if you have a family in the government, then you become somebody. But if you are a regular person, you can become no one. Here, you can become what you want; you make yourself who you are."
Henderson called the approximately 75 graduating seniors, the best and the brightest of DCPS.
"We expect you will prove to the world that the public school system in the nation's capital turns out some of the most amazing people in this world," she says.
Henderson hopes this event will become a DCPS tradition.
[Music: "Pomp & Circumstance, March #4" by Sir Edward Elgar from Orange Mecanique]