There’s nothing quite like the feeling of working your tail off and getting recognized for your achievements. Be it at the office through a promotion or in sports with medals and trophies, no success should go uncelebrated. The title of valedictorian in high school is no different, because at least from what I recall, balancing school work, social life and extracurricular activities is almost impossible without something taking a backseat, but not for this student.
Natalie Ramos, a senior at Jesse Bethel High School, managed this impressive feat but it seems like she’s being forced to share her hard-earned title with nine other students.
Ivette Ramos, Natalie’s mother shared her story on Facebook:
“My daughter Natalie is ranked No. 1 in her class with a 4.27 GPA. She was told by her counselor that she would be the first Latina Valedictorian at Jesse Bethel High School and it seems like the Principal has a problem with that. Principal Cusi wants her to share the spot with 9 other students. This has never been done before at Jesse Bethel, why now? The moment a Latina becomes Valedictorian it seems to be a problem.”
Aside from the fact that ten valedictorians is unheard of, this was not a situation of a GPA tie, i.e., the only reason to even consider sharing this title. Natalie’s story quickly went viral and most of the comments urged her to continue spreading the word and take action against the principal.
Natalie’s sister tweeted, “This is my little sister everyone. She’s going to UC Berkeley in the fall. She’s no. 1 in her class and deserves the spotlight of being the first Latina valedictorian at JSBH. Call 7075565700 and tell [Principal] Cusi he cannot silence us!”
With all the buzz, you would think the principal took immediate action to correct the situation. On the contrary, a notice was drafted by the district stating that after “preliminary measures” they now see three students with the same exact GPA. The letter also broke down the details of the calculation almost as proof of their reasoning behind this decision. Given this new standard, Natalie could no longer hold the title of valedictorian.
But Natalie’s sister was determined to solve this issue no matter what new “rules” were thrown their way: “Also After this story went viral my sister's GPA dropped and she went from no. 1 to no. 3. Retaliation ??? Call (707)556-5700 and tell Cusi he cannot change my sisters GPA and ranking drop because she told the world her story!”
Threads of positive and negative commentary followed, and Natalie herself decided to make some facts clear to the public. She posted on her mother’s Facebook post, “I’m tired of seeing all this negativity amongst the multitudes of threads that have been made targeted towards me and my mother. FIRST OFF I’d like to state that I TOO was at the graduation meeting as a student representative for the Class of 2019. I heard what my principal said about there being “multiple valedictorians” AT THE MEETING and IMMEDIATELY knew there was something wrong. Why? Because I’m good friends with the majority of the other kids in the top ten. A lot of them are just as mad as me."
"They KNOW we don’t have the same GPA. We’re all good friends. We talk about college, our hopes and dreams, and amongst other things, our GPAs. My transcript clearly states I’m no. 1. Last semester I was actually ranked 2nd and I climbed my way up to the top rank. I’m extremely proud of myself but please, if you don’t know what you’re talking about keep your comments to yourself. I’d also like to add that no one has said ANYTHING about discrimination. I’m simply stating that my counselor, who has worked at Bethel since it opened, told me I’d be the first Latina valedictorian. Knowing this, I know it makes it even more important to not share the spotlight with kids who don’t have the same GPA as me. Being the first is an honor in itself and I don’t want my light to be dimmed by having to share something that I worked towards all four years with others who have expressed to me that they wouldn’t feel right receiving the same honor as I have.”
Finally, the principal issued a letter on Wednesday saying that after doing even more calculations and cross-referencing with the student handbook’s GPA guidelines, Natalie was dubbed clear and sole valedictorian.
Congratulations to Natalie and her family, and to everyone at the graduation who no longer has to sit through 10 whole speeches.