Mount Vernon valedictorian has never missed a day of school

MOUNT VERNON, New York (WABC) -- Congratulations are in order for a graduating senior from Mount Vernon who is not only her class valedictorian, but she has also achieved perfect attendance her entire education career.

Ashanti Palmer is a graduating senior at Nellie A. Thornton High School and the Performing & Visual Arts Magnet Program.

She has been on the honor roll every semester since Kindergarten and has never missed a day of school from pre-K all the way through high school -- that's more than 4,650 days.

"I've never had a bad teacher, my teachers made it easy for me, made me enthusiastic to go to school," Palmer said.

Now she has received multiple scholarships worth more than $430,000 to cover all expenses related to her four-year pursuit of a biomedical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Mount Vernon City School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Hamilton said Palmer is an example that other young girls of color will look up to and he's not sure if she even realizes how prolific it is to be in her position.

"Ashanti's achievements in the Mount Vernon schools have been nothing short of remarkable,"Hamilton said. "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."

Although this year's graduation looked different due to the coronavirus pandemic, Palmer said her valedictorian speech was broadcasted earlier in the day on June 20.

"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."

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.

She eventually wants to open her own research company that focuses on employing women of color in STEM fields.

"It's something about her as a young person, she saw enough role models, or read enough books or saw enough people, she knew that was the path she wanted to journey," said principal Dr. Evelyn Collins.

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