12-Year-Old Plans to Make NASA History

Alena Wicker's goal is to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for the space agency
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2021 7:25 PM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2021 7:00 AM CDT
12-Year-Old Plans to Make NASA History
Bryan Jackson, left, and KaShawnta Lee attend a ceremony honoring their grandmother, Mary Jackson, by naming the NASA headquarters building in Washington for her. Jackson was NASA's first Black female engineer; Alena Wicker wants to be the youngest.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

When Alena Wicker realized the racial and gender gaps in employment in the STEM fields, she went to work. The Texas 12-year-old told her mother, "I want to create this culture of Brown girls in STEM, because it's this whole gap, and I just want to do something," Good Morning America reports. In fact, the Pew Research Center has found that just 9% of STEM workers are Black people, and only 7% are Hispanic. The result of Alena's effort is a website, thebrownstemgirl, for girls of color. Her other efforts include writing a children's book and starting a podcast, which is a couple of weeks from its debut, that will feature "women and girls of STEM to ask and answer questions." She plans to lead by example, too.

"I'm going to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for NASA," Alena would tell her mother. She'll start remote classes at Arizona State University in May, just as soon as she graduates from high school. Alena plans to double major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry on her way to becoming an engineer. NASA honored its first Black female engineer, Mary Jackson, earlier this year by naming its Washington headquarters for her. Alena hopes one of her podcast guests will be another pioneer: Mae Jemison, NASA's first Black female astronaut. The prodigy is on her way to breaking ground herself; she and her mother, Daphne McQuarter, said NASA has contacted Alena. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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