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A Queens, New York high school student has made academic history after becoming the first African-American student to be her school’s valedictorian. Shanelle Davis is the 2014 class valedictorian out of the 845 students in the graduating class at Benjamin Cardozo High School.

Davis said she was surprised to hear the good news when the class rankings came out and the administration told her that a black student had never been first in their class at the school before.

“It’s an incredible honor. It’s still surreal to me.”

“Out of 845 students and mine said number one. And then afterward I was speaking to administration in the school and they’re like ‘you know we’ve never had an African-American (valedictorian) before.’ Then that’s how I found out,” she said.

Davis said she hopes that her achievement inspires underclassmen in her school.

“School is like, it’s very diverse, but it’s predominantly Asian. So most African-Americans in the school think that OK so since there’s been like always an Asian or a white valedictorian that they can’t do it. But then I can be an example for them to show that they can also do it. So maybe next year they’ll have another African-American one,” Davis said.

Davis, who is a Milken Scholar, plans to attend Harvard University in the fall on a full scholarship. She is the first in her family to attend a four-year college.

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