Barriers conquered, Stanford next for Sussex Central valedictorian

GEORGETOWN – Just over six years ago, Jean-Akim Cameus left Haiti with his mother and siblings for America.

His father stayed behind.

When Jean-Akim arrived on March 26, 2011, he couldn’t speak a lick of English.

For the most part, Jean-Akim licked the language barrier.

And he certainly has licked academics. So much so that he earned the academic distinction of valedictorian for Sussex Central High School’s Class of 2017 and one of the stage keynote speakers at the May 30 commencement.

Jean-Akim is bound for Stanford University, which won out over other schools, including Ivy Leaguer Princeton.

It hasn’t been a gravy train ride. It took several years before Jean-Akim and some family members were able to immigrate to America.

“My dad had to stay behind because the way the immigration process goes, you have to file and you have to get somebody from the United States who is already here to actually support it. It took like 10 years. They filed like back in the 90s,” said Jean-Akim. “We finally came here in 2011 and then a while later, three years later my dad came because he is married and they want to keep the families together.”

The 17-year-old son of Sophonie and Altes Cameus of Georgetown, Jean-Akim not only excelled in school but also in the community.

“Outside of school I did a lot of community service. I am also a part of Upward Bound which is at Del Tech.  Also a community service, I did La Casita. I did that my sophomore year. I did like 90 hours. I am also an active member of my church … in Blades.”

Jean-Akim Cameus

This week’s Person to Meet: Jean-Akim Cameus.

In Haiti, your hometown was Gonaïves, well north of Port au Prince. Was your family impacted by the catastrophic earthquake that decimated part of the impoverished island country?

“That was in 2010. No, I was not a part of it.”

So, Stanford is your college choice over Princeton and others?

“I will be pursuing aeronautics and astronautics. I’ll be doing the co-term so I will graduate in five years with my both my bachelor’s and master’s degree.”

“Princeton, yes it was a candidate. I actually spent my last summer there, in a program: Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America – LEDA.”

How about your greatest challenge?

“The biggest challenge as most people know; English is what I struggle with. When I came here I did not speak any English. So, I had to learn it. I remember my ELL (English Language Learner) class and my teacher kind of pushed me forward little by little.

“Even though I learned it and I could speak it fluently I was still struggling to write at the academic level, especially for IB (international Baccalaureate) level.”

What else did you participate in at Sussex Central High?

“I was in a couple clubs and programs. I did soccer all four years. The (National) Honor Society, I joined at the beginning of my sophomore year. My last year I tried to join a lot of clubs but I was kind of like spread too thin. I didn’t get to be as committed and do as many of them. For instance, the Math League which I really, really tried to be a part of, but I think I only went to one of the meets.”

How about your soccer career as a Golden Knight?

“I was on the team for all four years. I was varsity this year. It was the most successful year we’ve had. We were Northern Henlopen champions. We hadn’t won that since I think 1995. I was a forward but I got injured. But I stuck around to boost the morale. I actually got the Athlete of the Month for October and the Sportsmanship Award.

And your fondest soccer memory?

“I remember the atmosphere after we won the conference. I think we beat Polytech and it was like the last minute. Everybody was rushing the field. We were running everywhere. It was just amazing. It took me like a week to get back (down to earth).”

Where do you hope to be 15 years from now?

“I want to be ultimately at the management level of an aerospace company, like Boeing, or maybe NASA or Airbus.”

Any special thanks you’d like to offer?

“Generally, I want to thank God because I think he has been one of the biggest factors in my career here and everywhere. And my parents, my family, my brother and my sister, my brother right now is graduating from UD and my sister, who is actually a sophomore right now coming up. She is doing IB (International Baccalaureate} next year.”

“And all of my friends from school and out of school. And definitely my teachers. Some of them they really push you, and put confidence in you, giving you the drive that you need to do it. The administrators, they definitely were a lot of help, too.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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