Graduating Proviso East senior Ladarius Sapho will march in the Rosemont Theater graduation ceremonies May 24 as a valedictorian after all.
Sapho’s District 209 transcript shows him as having the number one class rank out of 279 students with a cumulative weighted GPA of 4.135. Sapho transferred into the district his sophomore year from Aurora West High School with the class rank of 14.
“I told my friends I’m going to be valedictorian. And I set a goal for myself,” Sapho said.
But Sapho and another transfer student were told at the beginning of May they did not have the school requirement of seven semesters at the school to qualify for valedictorian and salutatorian.
“His counsellors were telling him he would be the valedictorian and telling him to write his speech,” his mother Bridget Peterson told the Proviso High School District 209 school board May 13.
Sapho’s cause was also championed at the board meeting by Proviso East alumna and Maywood insurance saleswoman Antoinette Gray. Gray was kicked off the ballot when she tried to run against 7th District State Representative Chris Welch.
“I am disappointed in at the haphazard decisions being made at Proviso East High School by this administration,” Gray said. She said the Proviso East handbook had no written policy saying seven semesters were required to graduate.
The board honored Jennifer Ramirez, with a GPA of 4.079, as valedictorian of Proviso East and Salutatorian Stephanie Gonzalez.
“My son did all he is homework, he worked so hard,” said Peterson. “He tore up his speech and threw it away. It all came crashing down on him. It was like a slap in the face.”
Principal Valente declined to answer questions from the Review. Rob Daniel, district spokesman sent a general link to the district website when asked where the seven-semester policy was located.
But after the board meeting last week, Sapho said he was summoned to the office of Principal Tony Valente who offered him and the other transfer student the slot as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian. The other student declined to be interviewed by Forest Park Review.
“We were having a competition, me and her, who’s going to be number one and who’s going to be number two,” Sapho said.
Sapho accepted the co-valedictorian position, but declined to make a speech. He will graduate May 24.
Sapho won scholarships to several universities, but has chosen to attend University of Hawaii-Pacific in Honolulu. He plans to major in biochemistry with the goal of obtaining a PhD and becoming a doctor. He’ll travel to the islands for the first time in July.
“I’m going to get settled in my dorm early,” he said.
His advice for entering freshmen?
“Set your goal, go for your goal and don’t let anyone else take you down,” he said. “Even though [Valente] took the valedictorian away from me, in my heart I knew I met my goal. In your heart you know you can achieve something and that’s all that matters.”
This article has been updated to correct the name of the salutatorian of Proviso Esst High School.