On May 25, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduated its largest ever group of black women. The 34 history-makers recently posed for an internet-breaking photo. Among them was 2nd Lieutenant Imani Simmons, a graduate of Westlake High School in South Fulton.
She recently posted on her Instagram, “For every one who thought I couldn’t, there were 10 more who knew I would.” Major Wade Johnson and Sergeant Major Yolanda Johnson, Westlake’s JROTC instructor were two of the 10.
“I chose to attend West Point because of my mentors Major Wade Johnson and Sergeant Major Yolanda Johnson,” said 2nd Lieutenant Simmons. “I was originally going to enlist in the army or do ROTC at a traditional four-year university. They pushed me to apply to West Point, something I wouldn’t have done because I didn’t think I would be admitted.”
Johnson attended Simmons’ commissioning ceremony, and called it a “blessing to witness.”
“She is an awesome young lady and served well in our Westlake High School JROTC program,” said Johnson. “I am beyond proud of her and the journey she had to endure to earn this degree.”
West Point is a four-year, co-educational, federal, liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1802 as America’s first college of engineering.
Historically, West Point’s students are largely white and male but the academy has made strides in increasing diversity. The graduating class of 2019 was comprised of 223 women, the largest group since the first female cadets graduated in 1980.
2nd Lieutenant Simmons has wise words for other young women who hope to follow in her and her classmates’ path.
“To young women who wish to follow in my footsteps, when people say you can do anything you put your mind to, believe them,” said 2nd Lieutenant Simmons. “I am just like you. I chose a path and stuck with it. If you do that, the only person who can stop you is you.”
Photos: 2nd Lieutenant Imani Simmons (Credit: Yolanda Johnson); West Point’s largest class of black women (Credit: Hallie Pound)