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Nellie A. Thornton High School Valedictorian Never Missed a Day of School

Ashanti Palmer, a graduating senior at Nellie A. Thornton High School and the Performing & Visual Arts Magnet Program, is the school’s valedictorian for the Class of 2020. She has also achieved perfect attendance for the entirety of her educational experience in the Mount Vernon City School District, beginning in Pre-K and culminating in this, her senior year of high school.

Palmer has also received multiple scholarships in the sum of more than $430,000 to cover all expenses related to her four-year pursuit of a biomedical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Ashanti Palmer “Ashanti’s achievements in the Mount Vernon schools have been nothing short of remarkable,” said Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton, Mount Vernon City School District Superintendent. “We strive to ensure our students graduate from here college- and career-ready, and Ashanti is a testament to that goal. Her perfect attendance record throughout her many years in the District have helped build a foundation of academic excellence that she will utilize in the next chapter as a student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.”

Palmer received a generous financial aid package from RPI, including tuition assistance, full room and board, and a book stipend. She also received a $2,500 scholarship through the RPI’s Bridge Scholars Program, a six-week academic readiness course, which allows incoming students to participate in rigorous academic instruction in either calculus or physics and the development of skills necessary for academic and personal success at RPI. Palmer received an additional scholarship from the Mount Vernon City School District, awarded to each valedictorian of the district’s high schools, among others.

“Being named valedictorian feels good because it shows that all the hard work I’ve put in over the years has paid off, and that effort is being celebrated in a big way,” said Palmer. “In terms of my perfect attendance, it wasn’t something that I sought out. I knew that showing up to school every day was important, because even missing one day can set you back. It wasn’t until 10th grade that I realized I hadn’t missed a day, and then I wanted to keep up the streak.”

Although this year’s graduation will look different from those in years past, Palmer said her valedictorian speech will be broadcasted earlier in the day on Saturday, June 20, 2020.

Palmer plans to pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering and Medicine, following RPI’s pre-med track. She says that students following RPI’s pre-med track with good grades are eligible to continue their education by pursuing an M.D. from Albany Medical College. However, RPI also has a high rate of acceptances to Ivy League medical schools, and Palmer hopes she is able to continue her studies at one of the eight prestigious schools with that distinction.

“Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a great biomedical engineering program, and I’m looking forward to taking part in that,” said Palmer. “They also have a wonderful women’s mentoring program, which is something I value in an undergraduate collegiate experience.”



Q&A with a Mount Vernon Senior