West Baltimore native earns valedictorian at Spelman College

Through hard work, determination and balance, Kendra Grissom has excelled and achieved high honors during her academic career. Now, Grissom, a native of Baltimore, can add Spelman College valedictorian to her long list of academic achievements.

The history major says people have discounted her and made assumptions about her abilities because of her origin— West Baltimore.

Being named valedictorian confirms for her that how one begins does not determine how one ends, Grissom said in a statement released by the college.

“I am incredibly proud of my Baltimore roots and I hope this moment serves as evidence that inner city youth should not be underestimated,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I am incredibly blessed to have a village of amazing mentors, teachers, family members, friends, neighbors, professors and church members who have supported me throughout my life’s journey. I would not be where I am today without them, and this honor is as much theirs as it is mine.” Michelle Hite, Ph.D., associate professor of English and director of the Honors Program, is one of those mentors, according to Spelman officials.

Even though Grissom was never one of her students, Dr. Hite’s mentorship helped shape her intellectual life at Spelman.

“Kendra sought me out after hearing me speak and wanted to learn more about my intellectual journey and how to build a life rooted in ideas,” Dr. Hite said. “Through Kendra’s example, students can observe the intellectual sovereignty that serious academic work demands. Though no instructor gave Kendra an assignment to seek me out or to create rich and meaningful intellectual experiences for herself, she did it anyway. Grad school is built for just such a renegade. I’m proud of her and look forward to having her as a professional peer one day soon.”

The recipient of the Clio Outstanding History Graduating Senior Award, Grissom is a member of the Phi Alpha Theta and Phi Beta Kappa Honor Societies and a UNCF Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. She served as a mentor in the Ford First Gen Scholars Program, was an ambassador of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and worked with the Spelman College Glee Club.

Following graduation, Grissom plans to continue her studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in history. Her overall goal is to become a professor at a historically black college or university, “making history more accessible while actively working to impact change in public education,” Grissom said.