The smiling face of a young black man with dreadlocks caught my eye while reading a recent edition of the Arizona Republic, but the headline, “Brophy Prep’s Josh Benjamin breaks barriers as valedictorian,” drew me into the article by Richard Obert.
Josh is believed to be the first African-American valedictorian in the 88-year history of the Phoenix school.
How often do we hear about the dismal high school graduation rate of blacks and the blame often placed on children raised in single-parent homes where the father is missing.
Benjamin is an example of a young man raised by two parents, his mother an elementary school teacher. He credits them for advising him that education is the easiest way to maximize one’s self.
Yes, there are stories of blacks succeeding in single-parent families, and those raised by a grandmother, but they are the few
“He is one of the most remarkably talented students ever to graduate from Brophy,” said Principal Bob Ryan.
Although Benjamin closed his high school career with a 4.4 grade-point-average, unusually, it wasn’t his grades that won him the valedictorian recognition. That honor at Brophy was decided by an almost unanimous vote of the graduating class.
“He is as kind, humble and generous as he is talented,” said Ryan, “and we couldn’t be prouder to have him represent this year’s graduating class.”
His talent extended to athletics where he was a starting defensive back on the football team and the captain and sprinter on the track team.
He served as a lead tutor and translator at the Gene Lewis Youth Center in Mesa, where he would help Spanish-speaking families. Fluent in Spanish, and outstanding in math, Benjamin is a member of the Spanish National Honor Society and the National Honor Society.
In his graduation day speech, he told fellow students, “There are going to be opportunities to take it easy or do something that someone else tells you to do. Follow your passion, do something that makes you happy, or you won’t ever do anything in your life.”
Although Brophy is a Jesuit school, Benjamin chose to continue his education at Harvard rather than Notre Dame. Incidentally, he was also accepted by Yale, Princeton and MIT.
I look forward to the day that Benjamin’s accomplishment won’t be news.
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