Onovughakpor “Onovu” Otitigbe is living out her wildest dreams – and leaving her mark along the way.
At 18 years old, Onovu will graduate at the top of her class from Albany High School, becoming the school’s first Black valedictorian in its 152-year history.
Her near-perfect GPA, combined with her impressive list of extracurriculars, helped pave Onovu’s path to Harvard University, where this fall she’ll study biomedical engineering and neuroscience on a pre-med track.
“I had a very strong foundation [growing up] of watching Black men and women who were academically excellent succeed in whatever field they were passionate about,” Onovu tells PEOPLE. “So I never had a question in my mind that it was possible for me.”
“An image really does speak realities into existence,” she adds. “Going to Harvard after 12 years of school sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience. But I think it’s really important to develop a mindset early on that whatever you want to achieve, it’s possible.”
Onovu knows dreams can be intimidating and don’t pan out exactly as people envision, “but with the right support systems and the right positivity, it’s definitely possible,” she says. “There’s no dream too big.”
Onovu’s mom, Jessica Otitigbe – who graduated from Albany High in 1992 – noticed her daughter’s “passion” for learning early on.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Joelle Goldstein