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12 Yr Old Genius Attending College, Plans To Become a NASA Engineer

Alena Wicker is only 12 years old and is set to attend Arizona State University this month. Attending college before she’s a teenager isn’t her only lofty goal — the young Black mind has dreams to reach the stars and plans to start by double majoring in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry so she can get her foot in the door at NASA.

Alena Wicker

Though her occupation has jumped from being an astronomer to engineering, her mother, Daphne McQuarter, says that the dream has always been NASA. “She would always say, ‘Mommy, I’m going to work for NASA.’ Then she would start saying, ‘I’m going to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for NASA—watch.”

The jump from astronomer to engineering makes perfect sense when you consider Alena’s main passion: Legos. Alena doesn’t just play with them, she builds with them, and the harder the project, the better.

She’s recently built the Taj Mahal, the Disney castle, the Millenium Falcon, and appropriately, the Apollo 11 rover and a NASA rocket. One build alone took Alena up to 15 hours, running on zero sleep over two days, and it’s only the beginning.  Alena doesn’t want to just build Lego rovers; she wants to build real ones.

It didn’t go unnoticed how little the STEM field catered to Black girls like Alena, though. Women made up half of all US workers in STEM, but only from the medical standpoint. There aren’t many women in the classrooms or the workplaces of the computers and engineering fields, and it’s largely due to lack of support.

Even more shocking, Black people only made up 9% of all STEM workers. Wanting to bridge the gap and create a safe space for people like her, Alena launched her own website: Brown Stem Girl (BSG), which was created for “supporting and educating girls of color around the world about the importance of STEM and how to excel in it.”

Science isn’t Alena’s only talent, though. In true cosmopolitan fashion, Alena is also learning Spanish and Arabic, two languages that will no doubt give her an edge over her peers, and she is currently writing a children’s book titled “Brainiac World.”

Alena’s next big undertaking: a podcast. Alongside her website, Alena’s working on a podcast to be released sometime this month. “My podcast is to encourage girls in STEM by bringing other women and girls of STEM to ask and answer questions,” Alena says when asked about her plans for the show. One of the first people she’d like to have on the podcast is Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black female to travel to space, to get her perspective of what it’s like being an astronaut as a Black woman.

Dr. Mae Jemison

Incoming college student, future NASA engineer, writer, and entrepreneur: It’s clear that big things are on the horizon for Alena. The twelve-year-old and her mother teased that NASA has already contacted her, so maybe Alena will reach the stars sooner than later. But for now, she’s got a new Lego set to build and a future to plan.



Meet The Scientist and The Activist Creating a Prison to STEM Pipeline

Stanley Andrisse is a scientist. Syrita Steib is an activist. They are both breaking down barriers to help formerly incarcerated people pursue education and careers in science, technology, education, and mathematics. They have both founded organizations that provide people with convictions pathways to careers in STEM.

“I was seen as a criminal, less than an animal,” Andrisse recalls the moment he realized that he had been being prepared for prison his entire life. In 2008 in a Missouri courtroom, Stanley Andrisse was a promising college athlete and biology whose future would be altered forever by a 10-year sentence.

Dr. Stanley Andrisse, Executive Director, From Prison Cell to Ph.D.

After serving his time, Andrisse reconnected with a cancer researcher he’d worked for during a fellowship in school. Through the encouragement and help of his mentor, Andrisse graduated with a Ph.D. in 2014. Now the endocrinologist runs a nonprofit, From Prison Cells to Ph.D., that offers people with convictions opportunities like educational counseling, paid short-term internships, and other resources.

Syrita Steib, founder and executive director of nonprofit Operation Restoration, faced a 10-year sentence and a hefty nearly $2 million in restitution after committing a felony. Nothing could have prepared her for the barriers she faced when she attempted to enroll in college after her sentence.

Syrita Steib, Executive Director & Founder, Operation Restoration

She was only admitted to Lousiana State University after submitting an application with the felony box unchecked. Steib went on to complete her bachelor’s and founded Operation Restoration in 2016. The nonprofit supports current and formerly incarcerated women and has a one-of-a-kind lab assistant program that offers a direct pathway to a four-year degree.

Many college applicants with convictions aren’t rejected. The truth is, many applications never try. Stanley and Syrita aim to change that narrative.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Auctions off NBA Championship Rings for STEM Education

Fans can own a piece of NBA history thanks to Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The basketball great is auctioning off hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and including four NBA championship rings.

Much of the proceeds will go to his Skyhook Foundation, which brings STEM educational opportunities – science, technology, engineering and math — to underserved communities.

“When it comes to choosing between storing a championship ring or trophy in a room, or providing kids with an opportunity to change their lives, the choice is pretty simple. Sell it all,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote on his blog.

“Looking back on what I have done with my life, instead of gazing at the sparkle of jewels or gold plating celebrating something I did a long time ago, I’d rather look into the delighted face of a child holding their first caterpillar and think about what I might be doing for their future,” he added.

The basketball great teamed up with Goldin Auctions to help sell off the memorabilia, some of which has minimum bids set at tens of thousands of dollars.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

How many NBA championship rings does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have? A whopping six — and four are now up for auction. In addition to those historic rings, Abdul-Jabbar’s 1985 All-Star ring, a 1989 used and signed basketball and an MVP trophy are among the highly-coveted items receiving bids well over the prices listed as minimum bids. receiving bids well over the prices listed as minimum bids.

Abdul-Jabbar’s foundation states this its mission is to “Give kids a shot that can’t be blocked.” Its flagship program is a camp for fourth and fifth graders that hopes to inspire students to focus on STEM education. Campy Skyhook takes the kids on a five-day immersive experience in the Angeles National Forest.

“I can do more than stuff a ball through a hoop; my greatest asset is my mind,” Abdul-Jabbar says on the foundation’s website.


Source: CBS