55-Year-Old Black Woman Named Valedictorian Nearly 40 Years After High School Graduation

An Illinois high school has named 55-year-old Tracey Meares as valedictorian 38 years after she graduated. 

Springfield Public Schools District 186 awarded Meares with the title in April after a screening of a documentary called “No Title for Tracey.” Meares earned superior grades in high school and shared the “Top Student” title with a white student at her graduation in 1984. In years prior, the “Top Student” was named valedictorian and the second student salutatorian.

Meares told CNN that she believes she was passed over for valedictorian all those years ago because she’s Black, and it still hurts her to this day. She went on to become a professor at Yale Law School, where she was the first Black woman who was granted tenure. 

Jennifer Gill, superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools District 186, said in a statement that “when we know better, we do better.”

“By meeting Tracey and hearing about her lived experience, we know that honoring her with this title means so much more,” Gill said. “We have seen that high school experiences can have a profound, lifelong impact. It was an honor to have Tracey here and a privilege to learn from such an accomplished alumna.”