With just a few weeks to go until graduation, Rebecca Akinwale is locked in. The senior at Albany Leadership Charter High School is focused on finishing the year on a high note.

“What I really like about here is that we always have each other’s backs,” said Akinwale, while sitting in the front row of a class.

Over the last four years, she’s been pushing herself to be at the top of her class. Earlier this spring, those late nights and extra hours spent on homework paid off, as she was named class valedictorian, like her sister Tofunmi was in 2014.

Rebecca Akinwale’s principal and other school members surprised her at home to tell her she was going to be valedictorian.

“The dream that I had when I was a small middle schooler actually came true, and all my efforts have paid off,” she said.

It’s a major accomplishment for the younger Akinwale, who was born in Nigeria and started school there before coming to the U.S. at age four.

She credits her teachers and parents for pushing her academically. But Akinwale also thanks her older sister.

“Seeing her, knowing she did it, of course I can do it,” Rebecca Akinwale said. “It let me know I can do it as well.”

“She continues to inspire me and surprise me and just make me so proud,” Tofunmi Akinwale said.

In 2014, the older Akinwale graduated from Albany Leadership at the top of her class. She says it was a great way to celebrate four years of hard work.

But she says it also showed the sacrifices made by her family were worth it.

“Us coming from Nigeria and migrating here was for a great deal and a great cause,” Tofunmi Akinwale said.

In the fall, Rebecca Akinwale plans to study political science and business at Syracuse University, which also happens to be her sister’s alma mater.

The Akinwales say it’s a great honor to make history as the first family with two students finishing at the top of their class at Albany Leadership. But they also say it’s a testament to everything their parents have done, now with two valedictorians to show for it.