By: Alyssa Wilson
In 2021, Jamilah, Hadiyah and Ayannah Page, the Page sisters, graduated after displaying academic excellence at various institutions. All of them are Tuskegee alumnae who are now ready to show the world what Black excellence looks like in their respective fields.
Jamilah, the eldest of the trio, received her bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences and dietetics. Now, she has a Ph.D. from Auburn University. Hadiyah, the middle sister, graduated with her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2019 before obtaining her Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The youngest of the three, Ayannah, graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a concentration in biology.
Three Degrees in one Month. Three Tuskegee Alumnae ❤️💚💙
Des and Will understood the assignment. ✨ pic.twitter.com/e5iF7xWssX
— hadiyah 🌹 (@kalicari_) May 30, 2021
The sisters celebrated their 2021 graduations on social media, noting their parents “understood the assignment.” Ayannah said education was highly valued in their family. “I feel like our mom, well both of our parents, really valued education. But our mom, especially because her mom graduated with her Juris doctorate at 66 years old. So our grandma was very influential in teaching us the importance of education,” she said.
Although their father passed away when they were young, they still feel his impact. “Our father passed away when we were little, so he didn’t have the chance to teach us too much about [education], but while he was here, I did feel like he was influential in instilling those values in us,” Ayannah said.
For Hadiyah, it’s about the spirit of resilience and the example her parents set for them. “Not only did my mom understand the assignment when it came to modeling and being a good example for her children, but she also understood that hey, they need a mother that shares values that I would like for them to understand,” she said, citing the lessons of preparedness and being hardworking.
Tuskegee University, a private historically Black university in Tuskegee, Alabama, also played a role in the Page sisters and their success. As women born and raised in Alabama like their parents, attending the institution seemed like a no-brainer.
“I could not have gone to a [predominately white institution] without an HBCU,” Jamilah said. Citing her experiences at Auburn, she was often the only Black person in her classes. As she strived to get her Ph.D., she often found many of her white counterparts were shocked she was aiming so high. “I had to kind of assert myself on why I’m here and I was confident in myself because of where I came from. I was confident in what I could do because I was pushed so hard at Tuskegee.”
For Ayannah, it was about being in a place where she wasn’t just tolerated but celebrated. “Being in that type of environment helps to cultivate young students into believing in themselves,” she said. “I feel like HBCUs help you to see different types of Black people.”
The influence Tuskegee had on Hadiyah was similar. When she was a rising senior at the institution, she had the unique opportunity to conduct research at Penn State. She was the only Black person in the room during the program orientation. Rocking her Tuskegee shirt, natural locs and her Black pride, she stood firmly and introduced herself to the group. “That moment set the tone for the rest of the summer because I knew that moment I made myself felt and there was a standard I had to uphold,” she said.
The support from Tuskegee was not just motivational, but it also came in the form of financial contributions. “They also taught me that I’m so worth the investment,” Jamilah said, reflecting on the fact that a dean paid her remaining balance every semester because he believed in her.
When Ayannah was applying to colleges, she wanted to follow the money to avoid crippling student loan debt. Her 4.2 GPA and 28 on the ACT didn’t get her a significant scholarship at other institutions. Tuskegee offered her more, and at an open house, an academic advisor said he’d take care of her. “He told me not to worry about the ACT and that he had scholarship money for me and that I wasn’t going to have to pay anything,” she said. “That really encouraged me and also made me feel like I was appreciated and worth the investment.”
The year 2021 and their newly acquired degrees are just the beginning for the Page sisters. They are off to change the world across the United States and beyond. Jamilah has accepted a position as an assistant professor of nutrition with a tenure track at Berea College. She also has an interest in community gardens and their impact on wellness.
Hadiyah, a former Albert Schweitzer fellow, conducts mindfulness courses with students who have experienced trauma at Impact Family Counseling. In the fall, she’s heading to medical school at the Ross University School of Medicine in Barbados.
Ayannah’s goal is to open a salon that gives customers an “all-inclusive” beauty experience. With interest in cosmetic chemistry, she wants to formulate products for nails, hair and skincare. She’s also thinking about getting her master’s in business and going to esthetician school as she finishes getting her cosmetology license.
The legacy does not just end with the sisters. Their younger brother Nicolas Page also graduated and he’s heading to high school in the fall.