McGowan
Kellin McGowan (KHOU-TV)

Houston student Kellin McGowan was surprised to find out he will receive the highest academic honor of the graduating class of St. Thomas High School. But as an added bonus, he’ll make history doing it.

When he takes the stage at the school’s upcoming graduation commencement, he will be its first Black valedictorian in its 119-year history.

“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 is the Albert R. Galens Award, which highlights the student who embodies the Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge mantra of the school. The award is voted on by faculty members. Nominees are selected by other members of the senior class.

The atmosphere at the Roman Catholic boys school is competitive, said principal Aaron Dominguez, but also supportive for all the students. “They hold each other up, but they’re also vying to be the very, very best.”

McGowan’s English instructor Darrell Yarbrough, said he left a lasting impression on the faculty described him to local station KHOU-TV as “a superhero with a cloak of humility. You will never meet a nicer person.”

McGowan has made his name at the school after following in the footsteps of his older brother Kingsley, who graduated in 2010 and went on to play Olympic rugby for Team USA and for Trinity College Dublin.

“Our administration and faculty are extremely proud of the range and depth of their many accomplishments. We are inspired by their dedication and perseverance. This testament to their talents also continues our upward trajectory as a premier college preparatory institution in the city, the state and region,” Dominguez said according to the St. Thomas website.

After graduation, McGowan plans to attend the University of Chicago and study political science. Ultimately he would like to become an immigration attorney.