A high school graduate is making history in Syracuse this weekend.

She’s the first African American to achieve the rank of valedictorian in the history of her high school. Toryana Jackson is finally graduating, in person, with the rest of her senior class at Henninger High School, a victory after the pandemic. But there’s something else lifting her sprits.


What You Need To Know

  • Toryana Jackson is first African American valedictorian in her school’s history

  • She’s also the first female African American in the school district’s history

  • Jackson will graduate Sunday with a perfect GPA

“We just started crying because we’re so happy because it was a whole bunch of years of hard work,” said Jackson.

She will graduate as top of her class, with a 4.0 GPA, a goal she has been striving for since eighth grade.

“She had asked her mom, ‘what’s a valedictorian?” said Charles "CJack" Jackson, Toryana’s dad. “From that day on she was like ‘maybe that’s something I can shoot for.”’

If a perfect GPA wasn’t enough, she’s making history.

“It was surprising,” said Toryana. “I honestly didn’t know that there hasn’t been any African American valedictorians in the past. So it was a shock to all of us.”

She’s the first African American valedictorian at Henninger, and the first female African American to achieve it in her district.

“I actually got letters from an elementary school and some third graders wrote letters about me, saying they want to be just like me when they grow up,” said Toryana. “So it’s just inspirational.”

An elementary school teacher even gave a lesson about Juneteenth and Toryana’s accomplishment.

“She’s really proud of me because she was my teacher back in fifth grade,” said Toryana. “So it's full circle.”

Jackson delivers her valedictorian speech on Sunday, and she will even get a special honor from a senator. Toryana has a full scholarship to Wellesley College, and this fall she will be pursuing a degree in journalism. She’s the second generation in her family to get the scholarship and pursue a journalism degree.