Ohio Native Becomes First Black Valedictorian at the World’s First School of Dentistry

A Maryland college student has made her educational dreams comes true and made history at the same time.

Out of 130 graduates, Tera Poole was one of 9 Black female students to graduate from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry on May 20 and although she was aware she was at the top of her class, the Ohio native got the surprise of a lifetime when she opened up the commencement program to find her name at the top of the class of 2016 ranking as valedictorian.  The achievement was a first for any African-American graduate of the school and two days after the ceremony, Tera was overwhelmed with joy to learn that she’d made history.

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“The tears just keep coming! Officially the FIRST black valedictorian of the world’s FIRST dental school,” Tera beamed in an emotional Instagram post shortly after hearing the news. She also pointed out a telling fact in the school’s history, noting that she wouldn’t even have been able to attend, let alone graduate, at the time it was founded. UMD School of Dentistry recruitment coordinator Andrea Morgan says Tera’s achievement is even more special because of the university’s history. “The sad part is that the first African-American person didn’t graduate from our dental school until 1972,” Morgan said in a recent interview according to Yahoo News. “It took from 1840 to 1968 for a black person to come and graduate. That’s my lifetime.”

Tera also shared that the support exchanged with her 9 fellow Black female students was essential to each of their journeys. “Sticking together, we knew that we were in this together, that if there were any hardships, we were always there for each other,” she said. “When it came to studying for classes, we’d study together in the library.”

As for her future goals, Tera is continuing to aim high with plans to open up her own practice, while also looking to branch out under the name ‘Dr. Tera.’  

“I want to be the Dr. Oz of dentistry,” she says. “Something along those lines.” 

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