It was a historic moment at a first of its kind school.
Tera Poole, an African-American woman, walked across the platform to received her degree with top academic honors at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. At that moment, she became the first Black valedictorian at the world’s first school of dentistry, Mic reports.
Poole shared her emotions on social media: “The tears just keep coming! Officially the FIRST black valedictorian of the world’s FIRST dental school.”
In the post, Poole explained that she would not have been allowed to attend the school when it was founded in 1840—25 years before slavery ended.
Over the years, the school had a poor record with Black students, as Andrea Morgan, a recruitment coordinator at the school, explained to Mic:
“The sad part is that the first African-American person didn’t graduate from our dental school until 1972. It took from 1840 to 1968 for a Black person to come and graduate. That’s my lifetime.”
Poole, an Ohio native, was just one of 10 Black female students in a graduating class of 130. She talked with Mic about their small but tight community:
“Sticking together, we knew that we were in this together, that if there were any hardships, we were always there for each other. When it came to studying for classes, we’d study together in the library. If it came to things outside of school that we were having hardships with, we always made sure we were there and speaking with each other.”
Looking ahead, Poole told the news site that she plans to start her own practice one day and become the “Dr. Oz of dentistry.” Along the way, she also hopes to revive her dentistry blog.
SOURCES: Mic | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Facebook