| Katie Washington. courtesy Notre Dame News |
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- The woman believed to the first black valedictorian in the University of Notre Dame's 168-year history challenged her classmates to make a difference in the world as they begin their careers.
Katie Washington of Gary drew sustained applause from the audience during Sunday's commencement ceremony. Some 22,000 people attended the ceremony that was held in the school's football stadium for the first time since 1959.
Washington told her fellow 3,000 graduates that they can ``engage in strokes of genius, enlightened moments and great ideas'' to help those around the world.
The Gary West Side High School graduate received a perfect 4.0 GPA as a biological sciences major and plans to start a joint M.D./Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.
"Last December, after a year and half working in Dr. David Severson's laboratory," she told the crowd of graduating seniors. "I saw my study of mosquito population genetics in Haiti in its published form, for the first time. Through the collaborative efforts of the members of Dr. Severson's lab and the Notre Dame Haiti program, we were able to demonstrate that human activities are likely responsible for the distribution of infectious mosquitoes throughout Haiti. Each year, mosquitoes transmit diseases that kill more than 1 million people, mostly in impoverished countries. I was pleased to know that I had made an important contribution to the global health community."