Botwc Firsts

Meet Lash Nolen, Harvard Medical School’s First Black Woman To Be Elected Class President

Meet Lash Nolen, Harvard Medical School’s First Black Woman To Be Elected Class President

You go girl!

LaShyra “Lash” Nolen made history by becoming the first Black woman to be elected as class president of Harvard Medical School, Teen Vogue reports.

The Compton native says she was always inspired by the Black women around her, particularly her grandmother and mother who had Nolen at just 18-years-old and raised her as a single mom while pursuing her masters degree and working multiple jobs. Nolen says she owes most of her drive to her upbringing.

“The city of Compton is one of the most resilient in the world. Growing up and watching [my mother and grandmother] struggle and work so hard to give me what I had in my life, I couldn’t help but do everything in my power to make them proud. I feel like Compton made me scrappy. I’m hungry for opportunity, I’m hungry for justice. I’m hungry to see my people win. So, when you put someone like me at a place like Harvard Medical School, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that vision a reality.”

Nolen said that she always had big dreams for her life and knew very early in age that she wanted to do something in the medical field. It was the motivation from her mother and grandmother that ultimately got her there, and she never forgets it. “Mom pursued life with grit and a desire to win. She would tell me, ‘I’ll see you at the top.’ My grandma would tell me that whatever I wanted to do, we were gonna make it happen. After telling her I wanted to become a surgeon, she would tell me to protect my hands.”

It was that instilled foresight that would ultimately carry Nolen all the way to Harvard. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar, activist, and a leader in the medical field. Her election as class president, while historical, is something that she believes is much bigger than her. 

“For me it means opportunity - opportunity in the sense that it will allow me to create a pipeline for others who look like me to hold positions of leadership at Harvard Medical School. When applying to HMS, I didn’t see people who looked like me in student council or positions of leadership at that level. I think it is important to show that Black people can also be the face of a university,” she said.

As class president, Nolen is currently working on various community outreach events that help to shape a new narrative about who should be highlighted at Harvard. She hopes that through her story and work, she can inspire other Black girls who are pursuing their dreams.

“Go get it. Our society has a way of implicitly reminding young Black girls what they cannot achieve and what they cannot be...And there are so many young girls out there who are excellent and deserve access to opportunity, but won’t take the leap because society tells them that it’s not for them. So no matter how crazy it might sound, no matter if someone in your family has done it or not, just go get it, because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” Nolen said.

Congratulations President Lash! We wish you all the best in your endeavors!

Photo Courtesy of Gretchen Ertl/Teen Vogue