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For the first time in decades, the top two students at a Jacksonville, Florida high school are two Black young men

They hope to inspire others!

Jeffrey Francis
Jeffrey Francis (left) & Darrell Worrell (right) are valedictorian and salutatorian respectively.

Because Of Them We Can
By BOTWC Staff

Jean Ribault High School is no stranger to Black excellence, seeing their fair share of Black students graduate at the top of their class as either valedictorian or salutatorian. However, it’s been a while, and the last time the school saw Black students in both of those roles was in the class of 1976 and again in 1985. Now, history has been made, and for the first time in recent history, the top two students at Jean Ribault are Black young men. 

Jeffrey Francis and Darrell Worrell are both seniors at Ribault, Francis graduating as valedictorian and Worrell taking the salutatorian honor. Both teens say they were inspired to do their best and graduate at the top of their class at a young age, although they each had different motivations. Now that they’ve made it happen, it’s a goal they’re grateful to have achieved. 

“In elementary school, my sister graduated 8th in her class actually from here…From there, I kind of aspired to be number 1…I saw that there weren’t many African American men who were valedictorian. So I wondered how I could inspire other African American young men if I was valedictorian,” said Francis. 

“I wanted to get rid of a generational curse. You know like a lot of my family some of them didn’t graduate…Becoming salutatorian kind of more so fell in my lap. I did work hard for it of course, but it definitely was like oh I’m moving up in ranks,” said Worrell. 

The two became friends during their time in high school, connecting in more ways than one. Both of them were extremely active in school, in a bevy of extracurricular activities. Worrell even earned his associate degree before graduation. The duo graduated with the highest GPAs in their class of almost 300. They want others to know that it’s cool to excel academically and that anything can be done if you are intentional.

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” said Francis.

“There is nothing wrong with being smart,” added Worrell.

Francis is planning to attend FAMU with Worrell, a first-generation college student, headed off to Florida State to pursue a career in finance. 

Congratulations, boys!

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