A New Jersey teen is celebrating the unique accomplishment of simultaneously being named valedictorian at her high school and her college.
Daniela Velazquez, 18, celebrated the school’s highest honor when she graduated with a 4.576 GPA from Passaic Preparatory Academy.
Taking advantage of the school’s early college program, she entered Passaic Community College in 2020. For the last two years, she attended school virtually. She graduated with a 3.99 GPA and an associate’s degree.
“It’s a great program for students within my high school, especially because my city is a low-income area, so the college credits that we receive help a lot with the financial problems that we might stumble on in the future,” she told the New York Post.
Despite her heavy courseload — high school classes in the morning and college courses in the afternoon — she was still able to participate in regular high school activities. She starred in school musicals for the theater program, served on student government, and launched the school’s first chess club.
As a first-generation Mexican American, graduating high school, let alone attending college, was something that alluded her family. She revealed that her mother didn’t make it past fourth grade. Instead, she stayed home and cared for her younger siblings.
“My mom put on my gown, cap, and cords and told me that I was graduating high school for her,” Velazquez said. “It is definitely a moment that I replay in my head often.”
Velazquez will start school at Columbia University on a partial scholarship this fall. She intends to double major in psychology and film studies.