NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – This year’s St. Augustine High School’s graduating class received a lot of attention after one of the school’s graduates posted a video of their graduation ceremony on Twitter.
It truly captured the joy of that day for the 100 classmates. One of the many sharing in that joy is one of the school’s top academic students, 18-year-old Sean Paul Martin. “It was an incredible day,” said Martin.
The all-boys catholic private school has a long tradition of producing exceptional graduates; that list includes NFL star Tyran Matheiu and award-winning musicians Jon Baptiste and PJ Morton.
Now Sean Paul joins them blazing his own trail. He graduated top of his class this year with a cumulative GPA of 4.59. He also earned the school’s top two awards: the Purple Knight and he was selected to serve as the school’s valedictorian for this year’s class of 2022.
The day he delivered his valedictorian speech was monumental as his supportive family sat in the audience. “I was just about to jump out of my seat. I just wanted to be there and hug him, to be near him,” said Sean Paul’s grandmother Sylvia because she was so proud of him on that day.
This fall Sean Paul is off to Notre Dame University. It’s one of 12 universities that offered him full scholarships. He says he was surprised by the multiple offers.
“But you know the ability to have options is the most incredible thing in the world,” said the exceptional graduate.
What makes his story even more outstanding, is that many people didn’t know that while Sean Paul was excelling on his test at St Aug, he was also getting tested daily at his home because of a personal heartache.
Just before he started his studies at St. Augustine in 2018, his mother suffered a cardiac arrest and fell into a coma. It was a heartbreaking event for Sean Paul and his four older sisters. But it is how the dealt with all of it, that left many in awe ‚because he kept his sorrow private while persevering at school.
St Augustine’s President and C.E.O Aulston Taylor was among the few people aware of what the studious humble Sean Paul faced at home.
“When you understand his story: a person can give him a pack on the back and say we know what you are going through, but he is the kind of individual who doesn’t want that,” said Taylor.
Sean Paul to this day is hesitant to talk about that emotional part of his journey to graduation day. But he admits it was his mother who kept him motivated to focus on his daily studies and his school’s extra-curricular activities.
Starting at a young age, he says, she taught him about the importance of never quitting in life.
“Schooling was always the number one priority in her life: and so for me, that is what kept me going, that is what I knew, to excel in school,” said the studious graduate.
His grandmother says Sean Paul was a pillar of strength for the family. “He was the one who brought me through everything,” she said.
He also remained that pillar for this family when life threw another curve ball with his mother’s passing in 2020. His grandmother says he never wavered, instead he helped out more to care for his grandfather.
“He’d say go sit down grandma: go sit down. He would do everything for him,” said Sylvia Martin.
Then in January of 2021, another dose of sorrow with the passing of his grandfather. But with his incredible resiliency, Sean Paul remained committed to his academic excellence despite having classes virtually amid the pandemic.
”There were times when I had class for 7:10 a.m. I would set the alarm for 4:am so I could prepare for a test for first period class or write a paper until 3 or 4 in the morning; so there were numerous occasions. It took dedication to achieve what I wanted,” said Martin.
Both he and St. Aug’s President also attribute Sean Paul’s success to the school’s supportive environment where former graduates remain invested in the school’s mission by donating money yearly to pay for student tuition.
St Aug Alum Ray Fritz is one of those generous graduates who contribute daily to help new students and the school. For the past four years, he helped pay for Sean Paul’s tuition covering 60% of it.
Their hope is that Sean Paul’s journey to graduation of perseverance, heartache and triumph, plus the success of his classmates, will encourage others to follow in their footsteps; especially young men facing life challenges.
“To show young black men, you can go to college, you can be successful with books and your training as a leader, and let us show you how to do it,” said the school’s leader, Taylor.
As for Sean Paul, he hopes others will also remember his inspirational message too. “As long as you remain focused on where you want to get in life, despite what steps you may take or what is thrown at you, it’s irrelevant, as long as you keep your eyes on your goal,” said the graduate as he gets ready to soar in the next chapter of his academic life.
As for next year, the president of St Aug says he plans to top this year’s success, by making sure the students know as early as December which student received scholarships and which schools accepted them.
RELATED STORY: Entire 2022 class at St. Aug accepted into college; over $9M in scholarships
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