‘I can lead the way for others,’ Vancleave student second-ever African American valedictorian
The school year may be coming to an end, but this is just the beginning for Vancleave High School senior Khadeejah Franklin.
Not only is she leaving Vancleave at the top of her class and with a full-ride scholarship to Ole Miss, the senior is also making history as only the second-ever black valedictorian at Vancleave High School.
“To be in that number at my school means the world to me. That I’m actually doing something and making a change,” Franklin said.
“I can be like a Dr. King or Rosa Parks, I can help out different African-Americans and lead the way for others.”
With a perfect 4.0 GPA, some would think that Khadeejah is all about academics. But that’s not the case.
She achieved this high honor while playing volleyball, basketball and softball, participating in several school organizations, working, and serving at her church multiples days each week.
“From ninth grade I knew that I was going to do all three sports and be involved all through high school, because I knew that this would be my only time to do this because when I get to college I want to focus strictly on academics.”
What sounds like a heavy load, was made a little lighter because of her faith in God, Khadeejah said.
“I had to overcome all of the negative thoughts that I wouldn’t achieve this, or that I was not the right person or even the right color to achieve this,” she said.
“I had to push that all out of my mind and focus on what I wanted to do and what God wanted me to do.”
Staying focused has been the key to her journey, Franklin says. Her focus is also the reason she’ll be graduating with much more than a high school diploma and a full-ride to Ole Miss.
“I’ll graduate with a little over 30 college credits, and my CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification so that I can start working in the medical field throughout college.”
The medical field is where her heart is, she said. Once she completes her undergraduate degree in biology, she wants to go to medical school.
“I started doing research and I found out about Ben Carson. I fell in love with the brain and I knew that neurosurgery was where I wanted to go and the path I wanted to take. I chose Ole Miss because they have a great pre-med program and a great medical school.”
With big dreams and aspirations in her vision, Franklin said two things keep her encouraged and focused through it all.
“One is my faith. With God on my side, anything I want to achieve will be achieved no matter what comes in my way. Also my family, especially my mom, pushes me to be the best person I can be inside and out.”
Khadeejah’s mother Triniss Wilkerson is overjoyed by her daughter’s historic accomplishment.
“I feel like Michelle Obama, my head is help up high, my baby is the valedictorian. And I’m not bragging. I’m just showcasing what God can do,” Wilkerson said.
“Without Jesus, none of this is possible. We prayed about this on a regular basis. She never missed church, we set our schedule around church. It was pressing for her, but she did it, putting family first all the time.”
Wilkerson said she had no doubt that becoming valedictorian was in Khadeejah’s future.
“She’s been saying that she would be valedictorian since kindergarten, and I knew she was destined for greatness.”
Franklin will walk across the stage on May 14 at the top of her class. A dream turned into reality, and an experience she’ll never forget.
“It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulder.. I know this means the world to my mom, my church, my community, everyone. And I wouldn’t be able to be valedictorian without God.”
The Sun Herald reached out to the school to find out the name and year of the first black valedictorian. The school has not yet responded with the information.