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New York Senior Becomes First Black Student to Graduate at Top of Her Class In School’s 152-Year History

A New York high school senior has become the first Black valedictorian in her Albany high school’s 152-year history.

Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield is graduating from the top of her class at Albany High School with a near-perfect GPA.

Before Otitigbe-Dangerfield’s accomplishment, there had never been a Black valedictorian at Albany High. The school’s history dates back to 1868, a couple of years after the Civil War ended.

Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield is graduating from the top of her class at Albany High School with a nearly perfect GPA. Photo: WNYT/ YouTube screenshot.

“I think one of the things about me is if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it,”Otitigbe-Dangerfield told WNYT-TV.

The high school senior also has been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech.

Otitigbe-Dangerfield was raised in a third-generation Nigerian home and was enrolled by her mother in several science and robotics camps in the area where she grew up. She won her first engineering competition as a toddler for building a bridge out of toothpicks and gumdrops. When she first checked out the robotics club at her school, she didn’t feel completely comfortable.

“It’s mostly white men in that club,” Otitigbe-Dangerfield told the Times Union. She returned to the club because of her “passion for the field and being able to create.”

Engineering runs in the young scholar’s family: Her aunt and uncle are both trained engineers.

She’s now president of the robotics team. “I realized I can’t allow other people to dictate my future … I wanted to go into this field and I had to come to terms with the fact that it’s not going to be 100 percent easy as a Black woman,” she said.

Otitigbe-Dangerfield is also president of the Key Club and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. She’s also a talented musician who sings in the school’s so-called Select Choir and plays violin and piano in the Jazz Improve Band.

Technology teacher Allen Landman, who taught Otitigbe-Dangerfield for all four years of her high school journey and worked with her on the robotics team, commended her for her determination.

“She has this drive about her; she knows what she wants to do and she loves what she is doing, so there’s nothing that will get in her way,” Landman said.

Otitigbe-Dangerfield hopes to specialize in pediatric robotic-assisted neurosurgery and become a “surgineer,” working in a new field that combines interdisciplinary aspects of robotic design and surgery.

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