Tobechukwu “Tobi” Phillips, a student from Alvin High School in Texas, is making history as the first Black valedictorian in her school’s 125-year history. Originally established in 1894, the school was integrated with African-American students in 1965.
Boasting a 6.9 GPA, Phillips earned all A’s throughout her high school career and took Advanced Placement (AP) courses. She opened up about achieving academic success during a recent interview with Because of Them We Can.
“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 said.
A well-rounded student, Phillips plays volleyball, runs track and is a Sunday School teacher at her church. She’s also a member of the Rho Kappa Honor Society, the president of the National Honor Society and an AP ambassador.
Phillips’ journey toward academic success has been met with challenges and scrutiny from her peers. Despite the odds, she offered words of encouragement to other students.
“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,” she explained. “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.”
Phillips, who wants to own her own clinic as a pediatric nurse practitioner, will be attending the University of Texas (UT). She received a full-ride courtesy of the school’s Forty Acre Scholarship. Out of 4,000 students who applied for the award, only 16 were chosen.
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Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.