The graduating class of 2019 at the United States Military Academy at West Point is set to make history. The Academy of its 200 women will be graduating 34 black women cadets which is the largest in its history.
“The Army was in my periphery growing up and in high school I developed an appreciation for public service. I believe in American ideals and I agree with what President Kennedy said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’ So, when the opportunity to apply to West Point arose, I took it because I wanted to serve my country in the Army and go to the place that would best prepare me to do that,” South Carolina native and graduating Cadet Gabrielle Young said.
West Point wasn’t always so diverse. The academy was established in 1802, yet it didn’t graduate its first black cadet until Henry O. Flipper in 1877. It took nearly 100 more years before it allowed the first class of women, who graduated in 1980.
“We’re gonna be going out and having to solve complex problems. And so that’s gonna take creative solutions,” said graduate Gabrielle Alford.
“It really helps if you can look up to a leader who looks like you who comes from the same background as you.”
Alford wants young black girls wondering if they can succeed at West Point to know that they “absolutely” can.
“I was fortunate enough to have 33 other African American women going through the same experiences as me,” she said. “Whether it’s your sexual orientation, your race, your gender, we’re in a place today where you can always find somebody to help you, empathize with you and pull you through.”