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Richmond Valedictorian Aims to Become a Teacher

  • Harold Aquino graduated not only as the 2021 valedictorian at George Wythe High School in Richmond, Va., but also as the year’s top-achieving student in Richmond Public Schools, with a 5.1392 grade-point average. While he could pursue any number of professions, Aquino plans to become a high school math teacher.

    His favorite subject is math, and while a ninth-grader in Wythe’s dual-enrollment program he took college classes at night. Aquino earned transferrable credits from Reynolds Community College, John Tyler Community College and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He graduated not only with a high school diploma, but also with associate degrees in computer science, mathematics and social sciences.

    Aquino was accepted to a number of colleges and universities and received scholarships totaling more than $1.1 million. He decided to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and will enter college not as a freshman but as a senior with 112 college credits.

    Aquino is following in the footsteps of his older sister, who was valedictorian at George Wythe High in 2018. She attended VCU and will graduate this year with a master’s in secondary education.

    “I have not seen a kid like Harold,” George Wythe principal Joseph Pisani told Richmond’s WWBT television. “Just being an academic powerhouse, his skillsets are not singularly dimensional; they are multi-dimensional, and it’s just exciting to see that.”

    Aquino says he struggled academically in middle school, and he credits his former math, history and English teacher Kakim Fung for never giving up on him. Fung even paid for some of the math classes he took at VCU.

    He took a chance on me, even when I got bad grades in middle school,” said Aquino in an interview with the Richmond Free Press. “Teachers like him don’t really care how you start out, only that you want to become better.”

    Aquino hopes to receive his bachelor’s degree in May 2022 and then enter the Richmond Teacher Residency program and become a mathematics teacher at his high school alma mater. He wants to help students earn college degrees in computer science and math.

    “I want to come back and give other students the same opportunities Wythe gave to me,” said Aquino. “I especially want to be able to teach dual-enrollment courses so that other students in Richmond Public Schools can have the same opportunities I had.”