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Valedictorian speaks at Rochester City Hall after high school denies him graduation speech

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren offered her former intern the chance to give his speech at City Hall instead.
by Jacob Taylor /

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Jaisaan Lovett, the first African-American valedictorian at the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester, New York, was looking forward to delivering a graduation speech that would cap off years of hard work that earned him exemplary grades.

The school, however, denied Lovett the opportunity to speak in front of his parents and classmates — and gave him and his mother no reason why — according to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.

After learning of the school's decision, the mayor offered the young man, who had served as her intern previously, the chance to give his speech at City Hall instead.

Image: Jaisaan Lovett
Jaisaan Lovett became the first African American valedictorian of the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester.City of Rochester Mayor's Office

In a five and a half minute video posted to YouTube by the mayor’s office, Warren spoke briefly on the school's decision before handing the floor to Lovett.

After thanking his parents, teachers and friends, Lovett delivered a message that addressed the decision that led him to speak at City Hall rather than at his own graduation.

“This speech is about more than just me,” he said in the video. “It means a lot to everybody that I mean a lot to. And I’m here as the Uprep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. And I’m still here, I’m still here strong.”

Lovett, who will be attending Clark Atlanta University on a full scholarship this fall, also spoke about moving past his anger toward Munno and the school itself.

Warren offered her own explanation of the situation.

"I think it was personal between Jaisaan and the principal, which is why there is no reason," she said.

Lovett once protested the safety conditions of a school lab, according to NBC 4 New York.

Munno did not respond to phone calls or emails asking for comment from NBC News.

NBC News reached out to Jaisaan's mother for comment but did not immediately hear back.

This is not the first instance a high school graduate has been denied the opportunity to speak or cut off mid-speech.

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