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Graduation season is approaching and so are the stories of black men and women breaking barriers academically. Alvin High School just saw a barrier of theirs be crossed as a black teen became the first Black valedictorian in school history.

Tobechukwu “Tobi” Phillips was officially named valedictorian earlier this month. She is the first Black valedictorian in the school’s 125 year history.

She earned a 6.9 cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale, which placed her at the top of her class. Phillips’ study work featured only AP courses aside from her electives and she earned all A’s all four years. Among the listed school population of 2,800 students, only 86 of them are Black. The school first desegregated in 1965.

“Maintaining the highest GPA in my class is a difficult task. It truly takes time management but more importantly acknowledging what you do it for. I know that I am no longer just representing myself,” Phillips told Because of Them We Can who first reported the story.

The University of Texas awarded the senior the Forty Acre Scholarship, their most prestigious scholarship. Only 16 students from a list of 4,000 were awarded it. She will attend the Nursing School at UT in the fall, planning to one day own her own clinic as a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Her advice for other students of color? Keep going.

“My biggest advice to other scholars of color is to truly adopt the mindset of Rosa Parks — ‘No.’ Do not conform to the stereotypes that have held us under thumbs for so long. Do not be discouraged when someone speaks out against you, simply allow what they say to fuel your fire. But more than anything, do not remain tight-lipped. Stand up for what you believe in and take it upon yourself to be the change you’ve always wanted. Say ‘No’ to the ways of the world and stick out.”

Go Tobi!

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