Valedictorian with perfect attendance record since Pre-K earns $430k in scholarships

This graduating senior from Mount Vernon, Washington, has a lot to celebrate. Aside from graduating at the top of her class, she’s also leaving high school with a spotless attendance record her entire education.

Vincent Miller/ Nellie A. Thornton High School

Ashanti Palmer was declared the valedictorian of her senior class at Nellie A. Thornton High School and the Performing & Visual Arts Magnet Program. From Pre-K through high school, this young achiever hasn’t missed a day of class. She also earned multiple scholarships worth over $430,000 to cover all the expenses for her four-year pursuit of a biomedical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton, the Mount Vernon City School District Superintendent, had nothing but praises for Ashanti’s accomplishments.

“Ashanti’s achievements in the Mount Vernon schools have been nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “We strive to ensure our students graduate from here college- and career-ready, and Ashanti is a testament to that goal. Her perfect attendance record throughout her many years in the District have helped build a foundation of academic excellence that she will utilize in the next chapter as a student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.”

Vincent Miller/ Nellie A. Thornton High School

This year’s graduation looked a lot different from the usual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, Ashanti was still able to give her graduation speech in a broadcast on June 20.

“Being named valedictorian feels good because it shows that all the hard work I’ve put in over the years has paid off, and that effort is being celebrated in a big way,” she said. “In terms of my perfect attendance, it wasn’t something that I sought out. I knew that showing up to school every day was important, because even missing one day can set you back. It wasn’t until 10th grade that I realized I hadn’t missed a day, and then I wanted to keep up the streak.”

Ashanti says that her educators played a significant role in her success.

“I’ve never had a bad teacher; my teachers made it easy for me, made me enthusiastic to go to school,” she said.

Vincent Miller/ Nellie A. Thornton High School

Her mother also encouraged her to always do her best in everything she does.

“A joke we always make is, whenever I would come home with a 99, she’d ask me where the one point is because she always wanted me to have perfect grades all the time,” she said.

The 18-year-old took that seriously, with her lowest GPA in 11th grade being 96 point something. This year, it’s 102.

Ashanti’s mom also taught her an important lesson: never to base the way she lives her life off of someone else. These are words that she lives by, and it definitely helped her get to where she is right now.

Ashanti will follow RPI’s pre-med track by taking their biomedical engineering and medicine degree. Students who follow this track and get good grades are eligible to continue their education by pursuing an M.D. from Albany Medical College. RPI also has a high rate of acceptance to Ivy League medical schools, and Ashanti hopes that she can continue her education at one of the eight prestigious institutions.

Mount Vernon City School District

“Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a great biomedical engineering program, and I’m looking forward to taking part in that,” the valedictorian said in the announcement. “They also have a wonderful women’s mentoring program, which is something I value in an undergraduate collegiate experience,” she said.

In the future, Ashanti hopes to use her education to establish her own research company and have more women of color in the STEM fields.

Ashanti has always been so sure of the path she wanted to take. This certainty—coupled with her smarts and dedication—will surely take Ashanti far in life.

Congratulations, Ashanti Palmer!