US Army/Cadet Hallie Pound

Black women are setting a military milestone this graduation season at one of the nation’s most prestigious learning institutions for officer training.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s class of 2019 is set to have the highest number of Black female graduates in the school’s history, USA Today reports.

The acedemy’s spokesperson Frank DeMaro said in addition to the 34 African American women graduating this year, the class will also include 19 hispanic female graduates, which is also the largest number ever.

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The first class of women graduated from the prestigious academy in 1980. Back then, the congressional decision to allow women to attend service academies was a polarizing issue with vocal opposition not just from the public but also from senior academy leaders.

“As with anything that is new, there is sometimes hesitation and reluctance to change,” Brig. Gen. Anne F Macdonald, a member of that inaugural class, has said. “Unfortunately, there was animosity toward us. Really, the reaction from the men ran the gamut: some were curious, some ignored us, some were helpful and some were hostile and difficult.”

But this year West Point is preparing to graduate its 5,000th woman and DeMaro believes that next year’s class will be even bigger than this year’s. Because of Them We Can reports that the academy even organized an Old Corps photoshoot to commemorate the historic number of black women in attendance.

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“My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability and fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker told the publication.

“In just a short while I met so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort. I have been fortunate to have my sisters in arms, we have been fortunate to have each other.”

Last July West Point appointed Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams as its first Black superintendent.

 

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“I chose #WestPoint because I wanted to challenge myself. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the military because of the influence I had growing up in an #Army environment. My dad served 32 years in the Army. I had full rides to other colleges, however, after learning about West Point my senior year, I took a leap of faith and pursued something outside of my comfort zone. To incoming class of #USMA2023, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There were many who thought I wasn’t good enough to make it through and excel at the Academy. I used their words as motivation to thrive and lead in multiple capacities here because I know there is a young girl similar to myself who may need someone to look up to.” – Cadet Isabella Minter, #USMA2019 #SoFreedomWillReign #USArmy photos by Cadet Hallie Pound

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