This student was stripped of her valedictorian title — and it may have cost her a year of college tuition

Destiny Brannon (Photo: Instagram courtesy of DeSoto ISD)

Being your school’s valedictorian might be the greatest honor a student can achieve. But what happens when there’s a mixup? After delivering a valedictory speech at DeSoto High School’s graduation in May, Texas student Destiny Brannon was told she wasn’t the school’s valedictorian after all.

On June 12, Destiny’s parents were told that the school had made a mistake calculating the students’ final rankings, the Dallas Morning News reported. Even though she had already spoken at DeSoto’s graduation on May 31, Brannon was apparently third in her class, according to the new rankings, which put a student named Brian Uzuegbunam in first place. According to the Dallas Morning News, the error happened because DeSoto had calculated the final rankings based on grades through the school’s fall semester, not the spring semester.

The mistake is more than just an embarrassing moment for the school too; it’s a potential financial nightmare for the Brannon family. Texas state universities give each of the state’s public high school valedictorians the opportunity to attend one year at a state university tuition free. Destiny had planned to attend the University of Texas at Austin. The family claims she had already gone through the school’s first-year orientation when her family learned about the valedictorian mixup.

The biggest twist in the story, though, is the fact that Destiny and her mom apparently don’t think the mixup was an accident at all. Destiny’s graduation speech criticized the school’s administration for valuing athletics over education, according to the Dallas Morning News. The outlet reported that although former DeSoto principal Arista Owens-McGowan had approved the speech, Destiny and her mom think the new rankings came in response to the criticism.

Her mom shared the video of the speech on her Facebook page.

Viewers of the video were supportive of the speech from the then-valedictorian, writing, “I know you all are some proud parents! Congratulations to all!”

Another wrote, “Loved every minute of it! The truth needed to be spoken. Great job Destiny!”

The DeSoto Independent School District’s communications director Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones shared a statement with Yahoo Lifestyle that read, in part, “Upon learning of the academic ranking concerns related to the appointment of the DeSoto High School valedictorian, the district immediately investigated the discrepancy. Through the investigation, the district found that officials at the high school based the appointment of the valedictorian on fall semester academic standings.”

They also claim they have “worked diligently to ensure that those at fault have been held accountable” and that “the district has made changes to campus personnel, created a process and system for verifying student academic rankings and issued an apology to both of the students impacted and their families.”

She also emphasized that the  “recalibrated rankings are in no way a form of retribution or in response to Brannon’s address.”

“To the district’s knowledge, neither student’s college acceptance or coverage of their tuition has been impacted,” Blackmon-Jones told Yahoo Lifestyle, contrary to the family’s claims.

She noted that, “The district has requested documentation of the loss of tuition from the Brannon family multiple times so that we can identify sources to fill the loss and has not yet received any such information to date.”

We also contacted Samantha Johnson-Brannon, Destiny’s mother, who the Dallas Morning News reports is a secretary in the DeSoto High School counselor’s office and we will update this report if we hear from her.

Either way, Destiny’s family claims they are now faced with the effect of the mixup on her college education. Destiny has started a GoFundMe page to offset the costs of her first-year tuition at UT-Austin. So far, the GoFundMe page has raised almost $2,000 of its $25,000 goal, at the time of this story. “Being stripped of my title is simple to me, but the burden of now knowing I may not be able to afford to attend UT in the fall is the hardest,” Destiny wrote in the GoFundMe summary.

“It’s just ridiculous, and they should be ashamed,” Destiny told Dallas’s WFAA. “I’m not proud to be an alumnus from DeSoto.”

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