New York High School's First Black Valedictorian Headed To Harvard University
Onovughakpor "Onovu" Otitigbe's valedictorian honor is the first for a Black student in her school's 152-year history.
June 21, 2021 at 6:19 pm
Albany High School’s first Black valedictorian is going to notch off a dream of hers by attending Harvard University this fall.
Onovughakpor "Onovu" Otitigbe will study biomedical engineering and neuroscience at the Ivy League school after graduating with a nearly perfect GPA. The graduate was a part of two sports teams and three music ensembles in addition to being named the first Black valedictorian in the school's 152-year history, according to People Magazine
"Now I get to embark on this new stage of life," Otitigbe said. "Knowing what it's like to be fully immersed in something, and really get everything out of it that you can."
Otitigbe, who served as the president of the Key Club and the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, also plays both the piano and violin while dedicating time as a research volunteer at the Myelin lab at Albany Medical Center.
Meet Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield the Nigerian that has officially been named the first Black valedictorian in an American school Albany High 153-year history.— Nigeria Stories (@NigeriaStories) May 22, 2021
Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield will graduate in June from Albany High School with a 4.0 GPA.
A queen pic.twitter.com/fuVyQmC3dj
No matter the endeavor or challenge, the 18-year-old said she envisioned herself excelling.
"I had a very strong foundation [growing up] of watching Black men and women who were academically excellent succeed in whatever field they were passionate about," Otitigbe said. "So I never had a question in my mind that it was possible for me."
"An image really does speak realities into existence. Going to Harvard after 12 years of school sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience. But I think it's really important to develop a mindset early on that whatever you want to achieve, it's possible," she added.
At Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, it became evident that Otitigbe had great potential as a scholar years ago when she took home its valedictorian honor, a designation she hoped to repeat in high school.
"I knew that I wanted to continue being dedicated in that same way, but I also knew it was going to be a different pool of kids," Onovu recalled. "It would be more competition, so it was a little intimidating."
Jessica Otitigbe, Onovu's mom and a 1992 graduate of Albany High, discovered her daughter's affinity for learning quickly early on.
"She was always curious," the proud parent said. "As a young child, she was always asking questions, wanting to figure out how things are working."
During her downtime away from school, Onovu said she enjoys creating new music, traveling to the mall with her friends and watching reality TV shows with her grandma.
"As a parent, I'm in awe of her curiosity, her respect, her empathy, her humility and her work ethic," the 47-year-old mom told Good Morning America. "Albany High is the same high school I went to so to know that this is part of history ... it's beyond amazing."
The soon-to-be college student said she had to overcome insecurity in the form of self-doubt.
"I struggled with insecurity, especially stuff like imposter syndrome," Onovu said while acknowledging that the "people who believed in me" helped her work past those feelings.
"What came naturally was learning how to advocate for myself and also being able to develop relationships with people who would advocate for me," she said. "I'm fortunate I grew up where a lot of people saw my potential and never let me give up."
Although she is not done knocking out her goals, the 18-year-old student said she’s stopping to smell her flowers and appreciate her accomplishments.
"It means so much to me," Onovu said of being named valedictorian. "The other day, one of my classmates said, 'Onovu, you really broke the cycle in this school' ... I even get letters from people outside of the state who saw my story and said it was really inspirational."