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Black excellence: Princeton University Student becomes the first black valedictorian in 274 years

Princeton University has named its first black valedictorian in the school’s 274-year history.

Nicholas Johnson, a Canadian student majoring in operations research and financial engineering, has been named valedictorian of Princeton’s Class of 2020, the university announced in a news release.


According to CNN, Johnson said, “It feels empowering. Being Princeton’s first Black Valedictorian holds special significance to me particularly given Princeton’s historical ties to the institution of slavery.I hope that this achievement motivates and inspires younger black students, particularly those interested in STEM fields.”

He also said he appreciated the university for encouraging him to explore his interests by supporting him with international internships and cultural immersion trips to Peru, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.


Johnson’s senior thesis focused on developing algorithms to design a community-based preventative health intervention to decrease obesity in Canada.


A member of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Johnson also worked as a software engineer in machine learning at Google’s California headquarters during his time at Princeton.


Johnson also has a lot to look forward to. He is set to intern as a hybrid quantitative researcher and software developer at the D.E. Shaw Group, a global investment and technology development firm.


Then Johnson will begin his PhD. studies in operations research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The coronavirus pandemic led cancelled Princeton’s in-person graduation ceremony but the school is still holding a virtual one on May 31st 2020.

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