At Central High School in Tuscaloosa, the top ten members of this year's graduating class have something in common: they are all female. The young women plan to attend colleges across Alabama and as far away as Maryland. Many of them have scholarships and some plan to enroll in military service, in addition to continuing their education.
The young women say they have smart male classmates, but this year, the ladies were able to edge out the guys to take the top spots. The top graduates also say the support they've received from each other has helped them stay on track and steer clear of negative influences. "We have peer pressure, but I think our peer pressure is more positive," Central High valedictorian Imani Irby said. "Those around us want us to succeed. They want us to do well."
Central High salutatorian Brittany Collins agreed, and said choosing the right peers makes a big difference. "We chose the other nine, eight women in our lives to be like, 'Ok, she's going somewhere, I want to be like her, I'm going to call her at night, I'm going to look to her for inspiration,'" Collins said.
All of the top ten graduates are part of the rigorous International Baccalaureate academic program. The students also give credit for their success to their families. Senior Antasia Wallace said she hopes to return the favor to her mother. "She's the reason why I'm here today," Wallace said. "And after graduating from college, I hope to help her pursue her dreams and put her back in college like she wanted to."
Central High IB coordinator Jennifer Hines agreed that support outside of school has been an important asset for these students. "They surround themselves with positive people, and they encourage each other, but the most important part is the support system at home," Hines said.
Hines also believes the achievements of this all-female top ten has put forth a challenge for upcoming students, both female and male. "I think they look at them because they want to be like them, and I think they're going to be pushing themselves to kind of get where they are."
Valedictorian Imani Irby says she likes to be a leader. "When they see you doing something different, they want to follow you, they want to be like you..and I kind of like that."
Central High School will hold graduation ceremonies Saturday, May 24.
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