Third-generation Nigerian student Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield has been named the first Black valedictorian in Albany High’s 152-year history. The high school senior was also named valedictorian in the eighth grade and has received admission offers from top schools such as Yale, Harvard and Cornell University.
“I think that just being able to be valedictorian is an amazing accomplishment,” she told the Albany Times Union. “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.”
Otitigbe-Dangerfield is currently the president of her school’s Robotics Club. When she first gauged interest in the group, she was uncomfortable with the fear of not fitting in and noticed there were “mostly white men in that club.” Fortunately, that didn’t discourage her from her “passion for the field and being able to create.”
From an early age, the teen’s mother, Jessica Otitigbe, took notice of her daughter’s interest in STEM and enrolled her in science and robotics camps throughout their region. According to Otitigbe, her daughter won her first engineering competition when she was just a toddler by building a bridge made out of gumdrops and toothpicks. Talk about innovation!
“She’s continued this streak of always wanting to excel while maintaining this value of humility and respect and compassion,” her mother said.
Otitigbe-Dangerfield is also President of Key Club, an active soccer player and the Editor-in-Chief of her high school’s online newspaper. Additionally, Otitigbe-Dangerfield is involved in the choir, jazz band (as a piano and violin player) and a volunteer at the local nursing home.
The high school senior’s hopes include specializing in pediatric robotic-assisted neurosurgery and becoming a “surgineer,” which fuses robotic design and surgery into a single career.
“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.
Photo Credit: Albany Times Union/Lori Van Buren