High school valedictorian with 8.07 GPA overcomes several challenges, including homelessness
When Jasmine Mazard-Larry was starting high school, she and her family were homeless because their house had just burned down. Four years later, she's graduating as the valedictorian of her class with an 8.07 grade point average.
"I think going through all of this … has led me to want to persevere and want to show little girls or boys my age that they can do it too," the 17-year-old Tampa resident said.
Mazard-Larry attends Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School. She said she enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and participated in dual enrollment and the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education program, which all helped to boost her GPA.
Before she receives her high school diploma next week, she will receive an associate's degree from a local community college.
"She's really taken the initiative to go above and beyond," said Patel High School Principal Marlee Strawn. "She had this goal of being top in her class, and ultimately she met it."
Mazard-Larry was also involved in several extracurricular activities, including the student government association, student council, speech and debate team, and art club.
"I use my little brother as my motivation," she said. "Sometimes it can be challenging, but I look at him and I want to be a role model for him."
Reflecting on her workload, Mazard-Larry said it has kept her busy but productive.
"I think that's very important as I grow older -- to learn how to balance work life, personal life, watching my brother when my mom's working [and] just helping around," she said.
Her journey, however, came with many obstacles. Mazard-Larry has ADHD and hearing loss, which she said she first thought of as weaknesses.
"I was a little embarrassed," she said. "I didn't really talk about it that much to a lot of people."
Looking back on her academic journey, Mazard-Larry said she realizes that having those disabilities helped her persevere and learn resilience.
"They're not setbacks," she said. "They allowed me to be who I am today."
Those weren't the only challenges Mazard-Larry had to face. Four years ago her family lost their home in a fire. Her mother Nidta Mazard said she was nine months pregnant at the time and said Mazard-Larry's father was severely injured from the fire.
"And here Jasmine, in the midst of it all, [started] high school …. Her behavior could have changed because of a lot of things that she was already going through," she said. "But instead, she used that as a light to help me because I almost died giving birth to my son."
"She's been my light. She's been my rock," Mazard continued. "I just love her so much because she's inspired me to be a better mother and a better person."
Strawn recalled the tenacity Mazard-Larry had after the fire.
"She dealt with a really difficult situation, and … she didn't allow it to stop her from meeting her goals," the principal said. "I think that's really remarkable, and she was just very goal-driven from day one."
Mazard-Larry said she has plans to attend college and hopes to become a doctor.
"We all have our own story," she said. "There's the good and the bad. But don't overlook the bad because it makes you who you are. In 20 [or] 10 years from now, you're going to look back and be like, 'I did that. I conquered all of these obstacles, and here I am today.'"