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Denzel Washington School of the Arts Valedictorian Alexandra Courtney Receives Presidential Merit Scholarship for Pratt Institute

Alexandra Courtney, the Class of 2021 valedictorian for the Denzel Washington School of the Arts at the Nellie Thornton Campus, has received a Presidential Merit Scholarship to attend Pratt Institute to study Illustration next fall.

She has also been accepted to Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, PrattMWP College of Art & Design, Moore College of Art and Design, State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase, Manhattanville College, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

“I am ecstatic to see Alexandra enter Pratt Institute, a global leader in education and the alma mater to many renowned artists,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton. “She is a gifted student, and I know her talent will continue to grow as she studies her craft under the leadership and creative direction of incredible instructors at the collegiate level.”

Courtney is expected to graduate with a 4.0 GPA. She has been enrolled in numerous AP courses, and received her Advanced Regents Diploma at the end of her junior year of high school. She acknowledged the rigorous curriculum that students follow at the Denzel Washington School of the Arts, which provides focused instruction in instrumental music, dance, theater, vocal music, and visual arts, similar to that of a college program, in addition to a general education curriculum.

She has chosen to attend Pratt Institute because of the school’s location in New York City, which Courtney recognizes for its diversity, as well as its highly regarded curriculum and instructors.

“I think that New York, as a whole, is one of the most diverse places to be. I am excited to continue my education in a place where I can be exposed to various cultural and art perspectives, which I believe has a large influence on the work you create,” she said. “The instructors are well-regarded at Pratt, and I am eager to learn my craft and sharpen my skills under their direction.”

In addition to her academic achievements as a visual arts major and band minor, Courtney has been an active member of the school’s theater program, serving in roles such as stage manager and executive producer. She has worked alongside Denzel Washington School of the Arts Principal Dr. Evelyn Collins on productions such as “The Color Purple,” “The Wiz,” and “The Lion King JR.,” among others.

“Working as a member of the theater crew has been such a rewarding experience,” said Courtney. “I was lucky enough to watch productions evolve from the first audition to the closing show, and there is something quite magical about that.”

As a visual arts student, Courtney also worked with Ms. Janet Rush, an art teacher at the school and scenic designer for the theater department, to develop sets along with a small crew.

Courtney considers Ms. Rush and Dr. Collins to be valuable mentors, helping her to develop her skill set and grow as an individual under their leadership and guidance.

“When the school first opened, there were only a handful of students, so Dr. Collins got to know each of us pretty well,” she said. “I have always been shy, and Dr. Collins offered me leadership positions that helped bring me out of my shell, and exposed me to new opportunities.”

Courtney credits Dr. Collins for her participation in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition, a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.

“Ms. Rush is extremely supportive and nurtures the skills of her students by taking the time to really understand us,” said Courtney. “In turn, Ms. Rush implemented a curriculum that supports the development of new skills for her students, while honing our existing talents, and helping to prepare us for the future.

About Mount Vernon City School District:

With more than 7,500 students in 16 schools, the Mount Vernon City School District is committed to providing a quality education to all children while developing programs that meet the diverse academic and social needs of its students.