It’s not uncommon for Black students and Black student-athletes who attend Ivy League institutions, which have been historically viewed as exclusively white, to excel in the classroom and on the court. People are still shocked to see Black women student athletes on the basketball courts at Ivy League institutions.

Each of the eight Ivy League universities have Black women on their basketball team. The Black women dropping “dimes” are Lexi Love, senior, Brown; Lillian Kennedy, senior, Columbia; Jada Davis, Sophomore, Cornell; Karina Mitchell, senior, Dartmouth; Gabby Donaldson, senior, Harvard; Sydnei Caldwell, senior, Penn; Chet Nweke, junior, Princeton; and Nyla McGill, sophomore, Yale.

The women student-athletes all arrived with expectations and hesitations about attending an Ivy League school.

Columbia forward Lillian Kennedy/ Photo credit Columbia University

Lillian Kennedy four years ago was excited to attend Columbia, being in New York City where she knew diversity would not be an issue, and it would provide an opportunity to interact with different types of people.

Sydnei Caldwell was nervous, especially being a transfer student from Arizona State to Penn University, due to the academic stress while being able to manage being a Division I athlete.

Harvard guard Gabby Donaldson/ Photo credit Harvard University

Gabby Donaldson came to Harvard with great expectancy of diversity, knowing Harvard students are from all over the world.

When Lexi Love arrived at Brown four years ago, there were three other Black student-athletes in her recruiting class. The rest of the Brown student body was diverse, which was a surprise to Love.

Princeton forward Chet Nweke/ Photo credit Princeton University

Chet Nweke knew the African American enrollment was 10%, so there was not going to be as much diversity as expected if she had gone to another Division I university.

Jada Davis, attending Cornell knew there was going to be a lot of academic pressure, as well as pressure on the court as a student-athlete. She was aware that Cornell was a predominantly white student body, including her team, which was like her high school.

Yale guard Nyla McGill/ Photo credit Yale University

Nyla McGill, who is from the South, knew that Yale was a diverse institution with a lot of international students, but not a large Black population.

The women recognize there are assumptions that come with being a Black student-athlete at an Ivy League institution.

There are a large percentage of students that believe that athletes don’t deserve to be at Ivy League institutions as much as students who get there strictly on academics. There is also a large group that believe that minority students are only at Ivy League institutions, because laws are in place to increase equity.

Being a Black student-athlete was like a double negative. Many of the women believed in the stigma that Ivy League institutions were only for the best and the smartest of the smartest.

Chet Nweke never gave being a student-athlete at an Ivy League institution a second thought, since she has two older brothers that attend Ivy League schools.

The women feel there is a misconception that Black student-athletes are at Ivy League institutions only because they are playing hoops. Not only have the women excelled on the court at a Division I level university, but they are also excelling in the classroom. They are at an Ivy League school not because of their jump shot or their ability to go to the hole, but because they have a GPA, SAT, and ACT just as high as their shooting percentage.

What many people don’t realize is that these Black women student-athletes didn’t receive athletic scholarships. Ivy League institutions do not give out athletic scholarships. These women student-athletes are at these Ivy League schools, because they want to get the best education available, and they want to compete on the court at a Division I level.

These student-athletes are role models for young girls and showing that Black women can really make it in the Ivy League. Whether that’s playing sports or just being a normal student, these women are showing that Blacks can make it, they can thrive and can succeed!

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