CHS Valedictorian – Destiny Hemphill

CHS valedictorian ‘brilliant,’ ‘extraordinary’
Posted: May 20, 2011 – 10:21pm By Courtney Spradlin


Destiny Hemphill, Conway High School’s valedictorian for the graduating class of 2011, could recite the alphabet unaided at the age of 2. By age 3, she was reading on her own.

Her GPA is at 4.34 currently and she suspects that it will be 4.35 when the semester’s computations are final.

Hemphill said her designation does not “define” her, but is a part of her educational journey that dates back to what her mother called “learning time” in her home.

“Education has always been a focal point in my home,” Hemphill said.

Her father, Kevin Hemphill, added that Destiny’s mother and older sister were also valedictorians of their graduating classes.

He “was nowhere close,” to valedictorian though he graduated with honors, but credits “the V gene,” something “genetically purposed, spiritually purposed or, just the way we do things in our family,” as the influence.

Destiny will attend Duke University in North Carolina to study African and African American Studies, English Literature and Spanish.

Her interests are in social justice and, according to her father, the issues are woven into her being.

“I have learned a lot about social justice in school. I’ve learned to be firm in my beliefs and to be clear on certain issues. I’ve learned how I will stand in the future and how to face the issues that we are confronting,” she said.

In college, she hopes to find a group of like-minded individuals who may be a part of her “revolution.”

Though, revolution may not be the correct word, she added, she plans to meet a group that also wishes to make strides in reducing the achievement gap among minorities, and that wishes to address world hunger and poverty.

Being named valedictorian was a “great honor,” she said, but her time in public school has been about breaking through barriers.

“When I moved here, I felt like some things were not expected of me because of my race and gender. Breaking through barriers has been my goal,” she said.

The Hemphills lived in Austin, Texas and Murfreesboro, Tenn., before their move to Conway.

Hemphill may not resemble every student, but she admitted that she has faced similar and typical challenges in education.

A late night project in ninth-grade was fresh in her mind as she remembered times when she struggled.

“We had to make a kite from tissue, straws and rubber bands in one day,” Hemphill said. “I stayed up late working on it, and I still didn’t do well on that project.”

She said that chemistry has been her weakest area of study, finding little in her physical existence that she might apply the subject to.

“I didn’t have a strong physical science background,” Hemphill. “Perhaps, it is too logistical. I had an awesome teacher this year in AP Chemistry so it has gotten better.”

Beside her assigned studies, she said that she has “filled the gaps” with independent research in African American studies and Latin America.

Seeing her time in public school come to a close, she said that she has no regrets.

“In the past, I had wished that I would have been more social my freshman and sophomore years,” Hemphill said. “Now, I feel that I wouldn’t. It all contributed to the journey and it’s a nice journey to be on.”

To the student, she said to “learn truth” as early as possible.

“Start on your journey to learn truth now,” Hemphill said. “Find it and apply it to your own life. The earlier, the better.”

Hemphill said that “having clarity” about oneself is essential in moving forward into the unknown, where students will face many ideologies.

Kevin Hemphill, knowing that his daughter is “exceptional,” was edified early in her education when a note from a teacher was sent home with her in Kindergarten.

“It said that there was something that I should know,” he said. “Today I witnessed two little boys attacking a mentally challenged student. They had taken his shoes. Before I could intervene, Destiny approached the boys, made them give the student his shoes and escorted him to his class. Something you should know.

“She’s a brilliant student, but a more extraordinary person.”

Hemphill will accept her high school diploma today, along with more than 590 of her fellow classmates at Verizon Arena in Little Rock at 2 p.m.

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