This 12-year-old genius is blasting off to college with dreams of becoming a NASA engineer.
Alena Wicker, who hails from Texas, will be attending Arizona State virtually this May after she graduates high school and. yes, you read that correctly.
She plans to double major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry to achieve her dream of working at NASA as an engineer. It is one that she has had ever since she was tiny, Alena informed “Good Morning America.”
While at first, she admitted she wanted to become an astronomer, she decided to make the switch over to engineering because of her love of building things.
“I would love to build a rover to go to space,” Alena said. Her mom, Daphne McQuarter, confirmed this.
“She would always say ‘Mommy, I’m going to work for NASA,'” McQuarter recalled. “Then she would start saying, ‘I’m going to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for NASA — watch.'”
Alena took notice of the racial and gender disparities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and decided to do something about it. So she launched her own website, the Brown Stem Girl (BSG), to create an opportunity for girls of color in STEM.
“She said, ‘Mom, I want to create this culture of Brown girls in STEM, because it’s this whole gap, and I just want to do something,'” McQuarter said of her daughter’s intention.
Alena created the entire business plan for BSG as well as contacted people who could assist with various aspects of its creation, according to her mom. This includes graphic designers to larger funding requests and public relations — talk about a kid-genius!
“She actually did all the legwork, not me. I just kind of sat in the background, and I got the fun part of writing the checks,” McQuarter shared.
And despite Alena being thrust into the spotlight — her family says she hasn’t changed one bit.
“She’s like the goofy kid in the family,” McQuarter said. “She’s just Alena to us.”
And while Alena understands the path ahead will come with its obstacles, she continues to be elated.
“All my life, people are trying to hold me down because of my age,” she said. And her piece of advice to others like her?
“We’re in a new year, in a new season, and no one can hold us down anymore. So you can keep your feet on the ground, but you can continue to reach for the stars.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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