Kellin McGowan made history at St. Thomas High School by becoming the first black valedictorian in its 119-year history.

The 17-year-old will receive his high school diploma with a 4.57 GPA. He  earned the academic honor at the all-boys college preparatory school since it was founded in 1900. McGowan was surprised when he learned of his achievement earlier this month.

“People have these misguided notions of what it means to be African American said McGowan, 17, who will receive his high school diploma with a 4.57 GPA behind it. “I believe that by seeing an African American who’s done well at an institution like this, I think they can see there’s more to us than what they think.”” McGowan told CBS local station KHOU 11.

Principal Aaron Dominguez commended McGowan for the distinction. He said it was noteworthy given the level of competition among his peers.

“The guys here are really competitive academically,” Dominguez told KHOU 11. “They support each other. They hold each other up, but they’re also vying to be the very, very best.”

McGowan also received the Albert R. Gaelens Award, which is given to the student who best exemplifies the school’s motto of Teach Me Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge. Darrell Yarbrough, English faculty member at the school, praised McGowan for living up to those attributes. Yarbrough declared that McGowan is a “superhero (with) a cloak of humility.”

He added that McGowan’s superpower was “his lightning-fast intellect” because he was able to think quick.

“We don’t have to know everything – that is God’s job. And Kellin McGowan is God’s superhero,” Yarbrough said.

McGowan  will attend the University of Chicago after graduation and major in political science. He wanted to pursue a career as an immigration lawyer.

“You can do anything that you set your mind to,” he said. “And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.”

His brother Kingsley McGowan ‘10 also excelled at the school. Kinglsey was an All-American and national championship who received rugby acclaim. Additionally, he was one of the first Americans to hoist a world rugby trophy for the United States.

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