Before soaring up the charts with four platinum albums, a 16-year-old Alicia Keys was valedictorian of the Professional Performing Arts School in New York City. Keys, like many others high school students, worked hard to become a leader of her class.
Students across the country vie for the top honor of valedictorian, and as the Illinois Valedictorian Project shows, student achievement at such a high level can lead to success. The Illinois Valedictorian Project was a program that followed 81 high-achieving high school valedictorians for 10 years after graduation. A report on the project found that valedictorians were highly successful undergraduate students. On average, they earned a 3.6 GPA, and many achieved scholastic honors. The report also notes that "of those completing graduate study, more than half were employed in science, math, engineering, and business careers." A quarter of the valedictorians who took part in the study were at the top professional levels for their age.
While not all these famous figures chose a career in business or engineering, they have made their mark on the world in a big way. Click through the gallery to see which 10 celebrities were chosen by their schools—whether it be their high school or graduate school—to be class valedictorian.
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Foster had already been nominated for an Academy Award by the time she was valedictorian at the Lycee Francais de Los Angeles. Foster attended Yale after high school.
A study in 2010 shows that straight A's are not only a sign that students will excel, but they are also a predictor of health later in life. According to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, "the higher a person's class rank, the more likely they were to report "excellent" or "very good" health when they were in their early sixties. They were also more likely to report fewer chronic conditions."
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One of only six actors to win an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, Spacey was the valedictorian at Chatsworth High School in California’s San Fernando Valley.
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The actor, writer, and economist was selected as valedictorian by his classmates in Yale Law School's class of 1970.
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The comedian and actor was a cast member on Saturday Night Live’s first season. He was also valedictorian of his high school.
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The Secretary of State and former First Lady was valedictorian of Wellesley College's class of 1969.
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Crawford was valedictorian for the class of 1984 at DeKalb High School in Illinois. Despite winning a scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern, she dropped out to pursue a career in modeling.
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Weird Al Yankovic
The king of musical parodies was a straight A student at Lynwood High School in California. He was crowned valedictorian at the age of 16 before attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study architecture.
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Long before Horton heard a who and Theodor Geisel was known as Dr. Seuss, he was valedictorian of his high school.
At only 16 years old, the actor best known for his role in Night Court was valedictorian for the North Hollywood High class of 1970.
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew |@natureofdabeast | TakePart.com