Valedictorian comes from the Latin vale dicere, meaning “to say farewell.” On Tuesday, Boston saluted 38 public school students who will soon depart with a singular honor.

These seniors, among Boston’s best and brightest, have achieved the highest grade point averages in their respective schools. City officials honored them at a luncheon at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where their 38 unique paths converged.

“To become a valedictorian, it takes a relentless drive and steadfast perseverance,” Superintendent Tommy Chang told the students. “You make the Boston Public Schools proud.”

Some students’ paths took them through the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Kenya, and the earthquake-ravaged streets of Haiti — to name just a few of their countries of origin.


Mayor Martin J. Walsh highlighted their achievements, calling them remarkable. “More than half will be the first in their families to attend college, and many recently immigrated to the United States,’’ Walsh said in a statement. “No matter what obstacles these students faced, they thrived.’’

Nearly half of the students, 16, hail from Dorchester, more than from any other neighborhood. Young women are in the majority, 27 in fact.

The valedictorians plan to attend a variety of top colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern, Fordham, Tufts, Brandeis, and Boston College.

The Boston Foundation, Eastern Bank, Shah Family Foundation, and Steward Health Care were cosponsors of the ceremony.

Maddie Kilgannon can be reached at maddie.kilgannon@globe.com.