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Spelman College Announces Valedictorian, Co-Salutatorians for Class of 2019 Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Mashaun D. Simon
Twitter: @SpelmanMedia 

Ariana Benson Spelman 2019 ValedictorianATLANTA (May 6, 2019) – In addition to excelling academically, the 2019 Spelman College valedictorian and co-salutatorians, have dedicated their college careers to making an impact in the arts and sciences.

Ariana Benson, C’2019, a psychology major, has been named this year’s valedictorian. Gabrielle Price, C’2019, and Kristen Walker, C’2019, have been named co-salutatorians. The seniors will lead the class processional, made up of 474 graduates, during the College’s 132nd Commencement at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.

Following graduation, Benson, a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, will continue her studies at Royal Holloway, University of London in the United Kingdom, where she plans to pursue a Master of Arts in poetic practice and a Master of Arts in screenwriting. She credits Spelman with her growth during her matriculation and considers being named valedictorian an honor.

“Being at Spelman has given me a unique confidence. I have learned how to use my voice to broaden others' perspectives and my intellect to broaden my own,” said Benson. “I truly feel that I've found myself here by being surrounded by women who have poured so much into me, who look like me, but who are different in their own ways.”

A Marshall Scholar and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honors society, Benson has been a member of Spelman’s quiz bowl team since her first year. She led the team as captain for three years. During her final year, she led the team to its first Honda Campus All-Star Challenge championship. In addition, she is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta honor society and Psi Chi, the International Honor Society for Psychology.

Fascinated with storytelling, Benson integrates psychological principles with traditional storytelling and poetic practice to interrogate methods by which modern Black narratives serve to curate and preserve collective cultural memory. Benson shared that professors like Sharan Strange, senior lecturer of English, and Dan Bascelli, coordinator of instructional technologies and debate team coach, have greatly influenced her Spelman experience.

“Ariana's impeccable character, intellectual, and creative gifts, and her willingness to contribute positively to civic life make her an exemplar at Spelman College,” said Strange. “At venues such as the Poetry Stage at the Decatur Book Festival and the Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Contest, Ariana has represented Spelman with enthusiasm and eloquence, as she has pursued further development of her craft and voice as an artist.

“She has enriched our community through her commitment to outstanding academic achievement, and to purposeful extracurricular activities motivated by genuine concern for healthy communities and societal progress. She embodies exceptional promise for future pursuits in academia and the arts. We can feel assured that she will make the most of the opportunities afforded her.”

Spelman College 2019 SalutatoriansPrice, C’2019, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in oncology at the University of Oxford in England. She will complete her thesis in June 2019 and has been accepted into the MD/Ph.D. program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. For two years, the biology major conducted research at Emory University. A member of Phi Beta Kappa honors society, she has interned at Mount Sinai, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

“Within each of us is the ability to leave an indelible imprint on this world; however, this will only happen if we use our God-given talents and gifts to be the change we want to see in this world,” said Price. “Spelman has enhanced my academic acumen and fermented my identity as an African-American woman, resulting in a more confident and self-assured woman. My ultimate goal is to become a physician-scientist and neurosurgeon. My experience at Spelman has given me the confidence needed to be intentional about pursuing my career goals and aspirations, and to use my talent to positively impact the lives of others.”

Walker, a native of Richmond, Virginia, will work in the Richmond and Washington, D.C., offices of McGuireWoods Consulting LLC, a public affairs firm, following graduation. She will begin her studies at Harvard Law School in the fall of 2021. A Presidential and Ethel Waddell Githii Scholar, Walker is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society, as well as Sigma Delta Pi national Hispanic honors society, Pi Sigma Alpha national political honors society, and Alpha Lambda Delta honor society. She served as co-director of leadership and civic engagement for the College’s Student Government Association during the 2018-2019 academic year.

“In the third grade, a pigtailed Kristen was told that she was not ready to be in the advanced academic courses in her elementary school. This young girl was disheartened that her teacher would share such comments with her parents,” said Walker. “Spelman has reinforced my confidence through an enriched understanding of those who have come before me and the foundation that they have laid. Spelman also taught me the importance of interdisciplinary learning and critical thinking. I will miss being surrounded by so much beauty and excellence.”

About Commencement
Keisha Lance Bottoms, the 60th mayor of Atlanta, will address 474 graduates in the Class of 2019 and 9,000 of their family and friends at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms will also receive the National Community Service Award in recognition of her service as a lifelong public servant and commitment to addressing local, state and national issues.

During the ceremony, Sonia Sanchez will receive the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. A poet, professor, activist, and one of the foremost leaders of the Black Studies movement, Sanchez has been a lifelong advocate for the rights of oppressed women and minority groups. She is a sponsor of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities internationally on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice. 

To request media credentials, email For details about Commencement media coverage, click here.

To learn more about Spelman’s 132nd Commencement, click here.

About Spelman College 
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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