The 2019 class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has the highest number of African American women graduates in its 217-year history.
When diplomas are awarded on Saturday morning, there also will be 19 Hispanic women standing in line, the largest number thus far.
Women entered West Point for the first time in 1976, which was also the nation's bicentennial. Of 119 females, 62 graduated in 1980 as second lieutenants in the Army.
"As with anything that is new, there is sometimes hesitation and reluctance to change," Brig. Gen. Anne Macdonald said in 2010, on the 30th anniversary of her historic class. "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."
In the class of 2019, cadet Isabella Minter told InsideEdition.com she was grateful to belong "to a dynamic class of black women who have persevered and endured far more than anyone can truly realize."
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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
Pat Locke, the first African American woman to graduate West Point, has been a constant mentor, she said, providing encouragement throughout her time at the military academy.
"I know each member of the 34 black women who are graduating with me," Minter said. "A couple of us have started initiatives to help inspire young black women to have confidence in themselves to pursue anything their hearts desire."
Even with help, it was not an easy journey, she said.
"There have been moments where I did not feel like I belonged here because there were several people around me saying I wasn't good enough," Minter said. She is unsure if the comments were directed at her race or her gender.
"Either way," she said, "I crowded out the noise and stayed the course." She credits the support of Locke, her family, and the academy's staff and faculty for helping her reach that goal.
West Point is the oldest military post in the U.S. that has been continuously occupied. The Hudson River institution was known as Fort Clinton during the Revolutionary War and was considered by George Washington to be the crown of the young country's encampment sites.
The military academy was established in 1802.