Like many high achieving students, former Cape Coral High School student, Alto Tarver, had eagerly awaited his senior award ceremony. With nearly a 5.0 grade average and more than 200 hours of community service under his belt, in addition to his achievements in sports, including team, basketball and football, the young man thought he was a shoe in for summa cum laude status come graduation.

Unfortunately, he was in for a shock.

“I was looking for my name, and I had seen it under physical education,” Tarver told Fox 4 News. “I felt almost betrayed.”

For Tarver it wasn’t just about the lack of acknowledgement of his own achievements, but also the fact that the academic achievements of Black students are so often overlooked.  “I feel like them giving me the PE award kind of put me back into that box that I tried so hard to get out of,” he said. “It felt bad to feel like they only cared about my athletics, and how good I could make the school look.”


Tarver isn’t the only one to notice the way that young black men are often pigeonholed as athletes despite their academic achievements. Former NBA player Walt Wesley, also a Florida native, was quoted as saying: “Minority athletes, and especially black athletes have always been looked upon as jocks!” He sympathized with the young man’s plight adding, “We say work, earn and achieve these things, and you will get this. When that doesn’t happen, that breaks you down,”

Many feel the system itself is broken because both high schools and colleges with high performing sports teams often overlook academics in favor of athletics because of the money they receive for the latter. According to Fox 4 News the National Collegiate Athletic Association makes at least $1 million in revenue from football, basketball, baseball and track and field every year.

However the Lee County School District, where Tarver went to high school, insists that isn’t the case here. In a statement on the matter the district wrote:

“Academic Awards are decided by merit and the student was honored with those that he earned. In addition, the principal nominated him for a statewide academic award and wrote a letter of recommendation for his college applications.”

Though still upset by the ordeal, the young man had a very practical solution to dealing with those who would try to stereotype him and overlook his academic prowess, “There’s only one thing to do, and that’s to prove those people wrong” he said 

The young man, whose final report card actually showed a whopping 5.22 GPA, will be attending Florida State University in the Fall. He plans to study criminal justice and minor in business, all thanks to an academic scholarship given to him by the University in light of the very academic achievements overlooked by his high school.

Earlier this year, two Black high school students were also swindled by their schools. Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple, graduating seniors at West Point High School, were named as valedictorian and salutatorian before two white students also received the titles as Blavity previously reported. The New York Times later discovered that the decision to have the Washington and Temple share the titles came after backlash from white parents.