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James Monroe Upper School Valedictorian and Salutatorian Graduates of the SMART Program

(June 6, 2024) This year marks a historic moment for two seniors at James Monroe Upper School who are graduating from the school’s SMART (Sports, Majors, Athletics, and Regents Track) program with top honors.  Jakeem Riggs and Nazhier Wilson are this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian for the class of 2024.  Between the two, they played five sports throughout high school, and both young men are using their passion for athletics to help further their education in college.

The SMART program, which began at James Monroe Upper School during the 2021 – 22 school year, jump-starts NCAA eligibility for student-athletes upon graduation. 

Students entering ninth grade can complete courses in public speaking, living environment, driver’s education, and Algebra I.  Additionally, students are introduced to careers in sports beyond the playing field, including coaching, officiating, training, and safety.  Building on this foundation, Riggs and Wilson emerged as exemplary students. 

“We do our students a disservice if they are only successful when they are with us at school,” said Jason Muhammad, the Principal of Monroe Upper School.  “They have to be successful when they leave us too.”

“I want to lead by example, not by possibilities,” said Jakeem Riggs, Monroe’s valedictorian for the class of 2024.  The three-sport athlete in football, volleyball, and baseball will be attending SUNY Polytechnic Institute in September, where he will play volleyball. “I want to make sure my goals are big enough to reach big milestones.”  Riggs plans to study either cybersecurity or computer science. 

“The SMART program holds you to a higher standard,” said Nazhier Wilson, Monroe’s salutatorian for the class of 2024.  “Our teachers and coaches want us to be great and do great things, and the bare minimum is not what I want; I want to be above average.  Why be average when you can be great?”  Wilson, a two-sport athlete in football and track, plans to attend SUNY Brockport in the fall, where he will play football.  “It is an honor to be salutatorian; I was not expecting it, but I knew I had it in me if I wanted it.  It is a blessing to be able to have this opportunity.”

“We have great men and women who are very interested in athletics; for the captain of the football team to be number two in his class says a lot about the SMART program,” said Principal Muhammad.