New York Senior Becomes First Black Valedictorian Of Her High School In Its 150-Year History
The third generation Nigerian student was previously named valedictorian in eighth grade and has offers from colleges like Yale, Harvard and Cornell.
April 02, 2021 at 3:45 pm
A high school senior at Albany High in New York has been named the first Black valedictorian in the school’s 153-year history.
Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield, a third-generation Nigerian student, is graduating at the top of her class at Albany High School, building upon a lauded academic portfolio that saw her also honored as the valedictorian of her eighth grade graduating class, the Albany Times Union reported.
"I think that just being able to be valedictorian is an amazing accomplishment," she said. "I'm very privileged to be in that position but to have some historical meaning behind it, to have a position where in my school there's a lot of students who look like me, now I'll have an opportunity to live by that mantra --if you can see it you can be it."
Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield, a senior at Albany High School in upstate New York, has made history as the school’s first Black valedictorian since 1868.— 𝕊𝕄𝕆𝕂𝕀ℕ𝔾.GUN•_ＥＮＴ🌍🌬💙 (@ENFANT_NOIRNO5) March 30, 2021
Growing up, the senior scholar said she was enrolled by her mother in several science and robotics camps near their home. As a toddler, Otitigbe-Dangerfield won her first engineering competition by constructing a bridge out of toothpicks and gumdrops.
When she went to learn more about the robotics club in high school, she said she wasn’t comfortable and didn’t feel like she would fit in.
“It’s mostly white men in that club,” she said.
After some consideration, the high school senior decided to return to the club due to her “passion for the field and being able to create.”
Otitigbe-Dangerfield now leads the robotics team as its president. As a result of her experience, she said she isn’t afraid of adversity and realizes her path to greatness will not be a walk in the park.
“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.
The senior is following the family gift as she has an aunt and uncle who are both trained engineers, per Albany Times Union.
Outside of her scholastic accolades, Otitigbe-Dangerfield serves as the editor-in-chief of the school’s digital newspaper and as president of Key Club. Additionally, she sings in the Select Choir, plays two instruments as a member of the jazz improve band and has joined the girl’s soccer team.
On the weekend, the talented student said she finds time to work at a nursing home.
“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 Albany High senior shared that she participates in so many activities to broaden her horizons and help mold herself into her best self.
"She is definitely a treasure," Ellen Hurley Green, Otitigbe-Dangerfield’s longtime guidance counselor, said. "I've been in the district for 30 years and honestly I can't say I've ever seen someone with so much poise, so much grace, and so much humility, along with so much sparkle in everything she does."
As she progresses through her academic career, Otitigbe-Dangerfield said she aims to focus on pediatric robotic-assisted neurosurgery, in a role she refers to as a “surgineer.” The rising field combines elements of robotics with surgery, and the senior has already been accepted into top colleges like Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech among others, according to WNYT-TV.
"She's a role model for girls. A role model for students of color too, and I think those things are something that we always have to hang on to,” Hurley Green said.