‘I’ve always wanted to go to UT’: DeSoto valedictorian stripped of title is headed to 40 Acres

Jessica Regan

After giving her commencement speech and graduating from DeSoto High School, Destiny Brannon abruptly lost not only her valedictorian title but her certainty of attending UT.

Brannon, a health and society freshman, received a scholarship for high school valedictorians that would allow her to afford UT after being named first in her class. The DeSoto School Board later revoked the title, citing a miscalculation.

“I’ve always wanted to go to UT,” Brannon said. “I was just shocked (when I heard the title was revoked).” 

In her valedictorian speech, Brannon criticized the DeSoto administration for a lack of trained teachers and a larger focus on sports than academics. Brannon and her mother Samantha Brannon said they believe the revised rankings were in retaliation to the speech.

“We have teachers that don’t know what they’re doing and I mentioned that in my speech,” Brannon said. “The principal at the time suggested I change it, but I felt like I earned the right to say what I wanted to say.”

The DeSoto School Board did not respond to The Daily Texan’s request for comment, but in a statement given to news site BlackNews.com, district spokesperson Tiffanie Blackmon-James said the board is regretful of the error.

“(DeSoto ISD) failed to ensure that systems were in place to prevent this from occurring, but has since worked diligently to ensure that those at fault have been held accountable and that there is a system and process in place to verify student academic ranking as based on grades, grade point average and course weighting,” Blackmon-James said. “The recalibrated rankings are in no way a form of retribution or in response to Brannon’s address.”

At the time, Brannon’s family had recently sold their house and were unable to afford the cost of UT tuition without the scholarship, which would have covered the first year of tuition. Brannon’s mother said she was frightened after she heard the news.

“We had no idea what we were going to do,” Samantha said. “Our plan B was going to be community college.”

Brannon’s counselor suggested a GoFundMe page to help pay for tuition. The family spoke to the press and began to broadcast the page, which eventually raised a total of $40,930 from over 300 donors. Donations came in from as far away as Ireland.

“My GoFundMe started doing really well,” Brannon said. “There was an anonymous donor, his initials were D.E., and they donated $13,000 … I’m extremely grateful to everyone who gave whatever they have. They are helping me to accomplish
my dreams.”

Brannon said she hopes this incident will change how DeSoto High School treats their students.

“This experience shed light on what they’re doing wrong,” Brannon said. “I hope this makes them realize they need to focus on their education and their kids, and things will start to be prioritized correctly.”

Brannon’s family said they are overjoyed that she is able to continue her dream and are looking forward to seeing what she accomplishes. 

“We know that everything happens for a reason, and my Destiny will be great in spite of those who doubted her,” Samantha said. “She is still and will always be our valedictorian.”