First time both valedictorian and salutatorian at Ribault High are African-American young men

“I wanted to get rid of a generational curse," said Darrell Worrell, salutatorian. "You know like a lot of my family some of them didn’t graduate.”

Jeffrey Francis and Darrell Worrell are making history.

Published: 8:14 AM EDT May 26, 2022

Updated: 8:16 AM EDT May 26, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s graduation day for Jean Ribault High School seniors. Two young men are making history. 

It is the school’s first time that the top two students in the class are both African-American young men. Before they leave Jacksonville for college, they want to inspire younger students to aim high.

“In elementary school, my sister graduated 8th in her class actually from here – Ribault High School,” Jeffrey Francis said. “From there, I kind of aspired to be number 1.”

Francis is valedictorian.

“I seen 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.”

Grades are finalized, the assignments are turned in and the speeches are written.

“I wanted to get rid of a generational curse,” said Darrell Worrell, salutatorian. “You know like a lot of my family some of them didn’t graduate.”

Surprisingly they’re friends not rivals who climbed the ranks together. They’re the two students with the highest grade point average out of their class of nearly 300.

“Becoming salutatorian kind of more so fell in my lap,” Worrell said humbly. “I did work hard for it of course, but it definitely was like oh I’m moving up in ranks.”

If a long list of extracurriculars and an associate degree before a high school diploma is considered falling into your lap, then sure. Both teens have a long résumé. While they were sitting in our interview, they discovered they were making history. 

They are making history in more than one way.

“I’m a first generation college student,” Worrell said. He smiled big and said his family is excited for him.

They’ve learned a few things throughout their four years of high school.

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

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

Francis is off to FAMU and wants to go into the medical field. Worrell is off to FSU and wants to work in finance.

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