Jay’len Carter decide to forego competing in basketball to be the 2021 valedictorian at Manual Arts High School (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Before heading off to college, scholar athlete Jay’len Carter received a parting gift from a group of Manual Arts Alumni. The 1971 graduating class, known as “Dadisi,” celebrated their 50th anniversary by creating a scholarship. They chose to award Carter, a student of the 2021 class, with their scholarship.

Carter considers receiving the scholarship as “a special moment,” it taught him how hard work can produce great rewards.

“I’m definitely humbled and honored and I feel very appreciative,” Carter said. “They [did not] have to do it, I just appreciate them for recognizing my accomplishments.”

The Dadisi class wanted to do something special for their 50th year reunion and decided on creating a scholarship, which involved every member of the class donating $50 for the fund. They created a scholarship committee and researched students.

The 1971 graduating class created a scholarship fund and chose Jay’len to be the recipient (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

“I asked the Manual Arts counselor about other people who would be worthy of an academic scholarship,” said Dadisi class of 1971 chairperson Brenda Richardson-Mitchell. “His name was one of the other few and the committee voted on Jay’len.”

Carter was unable to compete in basketball during his senior year because Manual Arts did not put COVID-19 protocols in place to host athletic competitions. Instead of transferring to pursue basketball, Carter stayed at Manual Arts because he had the grades to be valedictorian.

“I thought it was beautiful by him being a valedictorian,” said Debra Harrison-Porter who is a member of the scholarship committee.

The class of 1971 also hosted a virtual reunion celebration and invited Carter to attend. This is the first time this graduating class established a scholarship.

“I’m really excited to be a part of this historical event with this young man who has proven to be really worthy,” said Dadisi class member Gwendolyn Scott. “His parents have done a wonderful job and he’s consumed all that they have taught him.”

Carter is the first African American student athlete valedictorian in the 111-year history of Manual Arts. This makes him worthy of Manual Art’s Hallway of Honor, a display on campus that highlight’s Manual Art’s notable alumni.

“I’m just so happy that Jay’len is the recipient of their scholarship,” said Myra Porter-Robertson, who helps orchestrate events for all the alumni classes at Manual Arts. “I hope some of the other classes will follow suit.”

Jay’len (center) poses with his mother (left) and father (right). Jay’len is a second generation Manual Arts alum (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Along with rewarding him with scholarship money, the class of 1971 gave Carter a plaque for his hard work. The Toiler pride is strong in Carter as his father, Darwin Carter, also attended Manual Arts and graduated in 1995. He describes the younger Carter as “a bright kid,” he noted that being valedictorian outweighed being a basketball player.

“We bleed purple and that’s just what it is,” Darwin said. “The alumni itself are coming out and showing love to the younger generation, I think that’s one of the greatest things that could ever happen.”

Dadisi is a Swahili word, translating into the word inquisitive, their class motto is “We carry this torch casting a bright light on the path of our future.”

Along with him being a stellar student-athlete, Carter has a strong relationship with God. He also knows the importance of a strong work ethic.

“A Toiler is a hard worker,” Carter said. “Taking that particular trait and carrying it over in anything I do is one of my standards, that’s what Manual (Arts) taught me.”