Having perfect attendance for a year is impression. Having perfect attendance every year since Pre-K is extraordinary. A valedictorian at one New York school was awarded nearly a half a million dollars in scholarships for her achievement.

Ashanti Palmer, a graduating senior at Nellie A. Thornton High School in Mount Vernon, New York has never missed a day of class. The school valedictorian received $430,000 in multiple scholarships to cover all expenses.

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“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."

Palmer plans to pursue a biomedical engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where her tuition, room and board and books are all covered. 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.

“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.”

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.”

Palmer hopes to one day open a research company aimed at encouraging women of color to enter STEM fields.