Alyssa Vassel Makes History as Lee Academy’s First African-American Valedictorian


By CA Staff Writer & Tana Vassel | May 21, 2024

Clarksdale, Mississippi – Alyssa Vassel, the daughter of Daniel Vassel and Tana Pittman Vassel of Clarksdale, MS, has earned the honor of Valedictorian of the Lee Academy Class of 2024, making her the first African-American to attain this prestigious title. Alyssa has attended Lee Academy since the 7th grade, after completing her early education at St. Elizabeth Catholic School, where she also graduated as Valedictorian.

Alyssa’s academic achievements are remarkable. She is the first African-American STAR student at Lee Academy, having achieved the school’s highest ACT score of 35. Additionally, she received the ACT Platinum Achievement Award for ACT WorkKeys NCRC and was recently named a National Merit Scholar. Her dedication to academics and community service has also earned her the Mary Louther Finalist Prize as a finalist for the Letters to Strangers Mental Health Change-maker Scholarship.

Her leadership roles at Lee Academy are numerous. Alyssa serves as the Editor of the school newspaper, The Colt Chronicle, and as President of the Crown Club, a high school arm of the Junior Auxiliary community service organization. Demonstrating her commitment to community service, she founded the Initiative Club at Lee two years ago. As President of this organization, she has led efforts to support various nonprofits, including CARES Animal Shelter, GRIOT Arts, Spring Initiative, Care Station, Salvation Army, local elementary schools, and Christmas Child.

Alyssa’s involvement extends beyond her school. She volunteered as a marketing assistant for GRIOT Arts and interned as a content creator for the national mental health nonprofit, @Letters to Strangers. Her academic prowess has also been recognized through numerous accolades, such as being a Gates Scholarship Semifinalist and a Quest Bridge National College Match Scholar. She is a member of Quill & Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists and received the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools David Derrick ACT Distinguished Scholar Award. Furthermore, she was honored with the National Rural and Small Town Recognition Award from the CollegeBoard and recognized by the CollegeBoard’s National African-American Recognition Program for her academic achievements and community involvement.

Alyssa’s impressive list of honors continues with her membership in the Chi Alpha Mu math honor society and her role as Officer of Scholarship for the National Honor Society. Last summer, she was selected to attend the Mississippi Governor’s School, an honor reserved for the state’s top students. At Lee Academy, she was voted Most Intellectual and Most Likely to Succeed and was chosen as a homecoming court maid in 11th grade. She also contributed to the school’s athletic program as a member of the varsity softball team.

Coming from a family that values education highly—her grandfather was an educator—Alyssa is following in the footsteps of her mother, Tana Pittman Vassel, who was the Valedictorian of Clarksdale High School in the 6th, 9th, and 12th grades. Alyssa has always understood the importance of education for a successful future.

Alyssa Vassel has been awarded a full academic scholarship to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where she plans to major in Psychology. She aspires to attend medical school to become a Psychiatrist, continuing her journey of excellence and making a significant impact on the world.


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