Recent Manual Arts graduate Jay’len Carter was named valedictorian of his class, but it came with a price. He had to forego competing in basketball for his senior season as the high school did not allow the team to play after LAUSD allowed schools to have sporting events.
Carter was disappointed by the decision the Manual Arts Administration made, but he could not see himself playing basketball for another school.
“One thing about me, I’m always loyal,” Carter said. “It was tough because I did want to play basketball, but I also know that valedictorian carries more weight.”
In May, Carter was presented with the valedictorian honor by his homeroom teacher. With a 4.2 GPA, he became the first Black student athlete in the school’s 111-year history to become valedictorian.
“I know I worked hard, but it was unexpected at the same time,” Carter said. “It felt good just to be able to get noticed in both aspects of my passion, being a student and an athlete, I was proud of myself.”
Carter was able to recite his graduation speech in front of his classmates as Manual Arts hosted an in-person graduation. The lessons he learned from his basketball situation were featured in his speech. Despite not being able to showcase his athleticism, he was still able to highlight his academic success.
“In life, people will try to stop this process; you have to do something else,” he said. “Whenever you get cut off, you just find another path and keep pushing.”
In his speech, Carter told his peers to not be complacent and never be mediocre. The most memorable part of the speech to Carter was when he talked about how God’s greatness has given them the strength to battle their obstacles.
“That was very moving to a lot of people, and it meant a lot to me,” Carter said. “I believe in the man above and I believe that if you do right by Him, He’ll do right by you.”
Carter started playing varsity basketball in the ninth grade and became team captain in his junior year. At 6’5”, he was the tallest player on the team and played at any position.
He also played travel ball and the members of his AAU team played for the Toilers. In both academics and athletics, he strives to be a top performer. Carter never intends to fail at a task he took on.
“If I didn’t perform well for basketball, then it’s something I wasn’t doing right,” he said. “If I got a ‘B’ … I really felt like I failed myself because if it wasn’t the highest grade, then it wasn’t my expectation.”
His yearning for success paid off last season as he was named Player of the Year at Manual Arts. Carter noted that he was honored to win the award.
“I felt like it’s something I worked for,” he said. “In the past years, I’ve been in the shadow of other players and haven’t been able to display my real talent.”
Carter desires to be a pre-med major in college so he can ultimately become a neurosurgeon. His favorite class is Geometry, his favorite part of the subject was learning the Pythagorean Theorem.
“Finding the hypotenuse, that was really something I enjoyed because I related it to basketball a lot,” Carter said. “As far as playing defense, that involves math too because you have to know your angles to be able to cut someone off.”