A DreamWakers chat honoring fearless women in STEM

Ms. Jennifer Barefoot’s class in Grovetown, GA.

On Friday, February 22, 2019, as part of our #BlackHistory #BlackExcellence series, we hosted a flashchat with Dr. Yolanda Shea, Physical Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center. She spoke to Ms. Jennifer Barefoot’s Language Arts class from Grovetown Middle School in Grovetown, Georgia about her profession as a climate and atmospheric scientist.

The class had been reading and studying the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly, a nonfiction story about three female mathematicians (who later became known as “human computers”) who overcame discrimination as both women and African Americans while working at NASA during the Space Race in the 1960s. The popular book was also produced as a movie by the same name that came out in December 2016.

Dr. Shea holding up her “Hidden Figures” book.

The students were excited to be hearing from an African American STEMinist who currently works for NASA, especially because they were able to refer to what they had learned from reading “Hidden Figures.”

Dr. Shea is a scientist working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and went on to receive her Masters and Ph.D from the University of Colorado.

“Dr. Shea’s presentation enhanced our lesson because she reiterated the lesson/topics we have discussed in class in regards to writing, research, and referring back to “Hidden Figures.” In our study of “Hidden Figures,” we focused a lot on civil rights in regards to the female scientists featured in the book. However, it has also been a women’s history lesson. It was an amazing opportunity to have an African American women in this field speak to us,” said Jennifer.

During Dr. Shea’s flashchat, a student had asked a thoughtful question regarding the relation of her job and “Hidden Figures”:

Q“How does it feel working at Langley like the women of Hidden Figures?”

A“I think it’s pretty cool…It’s great to be a woman of color at Langley and getting the opportunity to continue that torch of working as a woman of color in STEM at Langley so it’s kind of cool to have that brush with history.”

After the chat, one student said that working for NASA would be simply “magical.” Dr. Shea inspired the students “to pursue their passions and to never give up, no matter how hard it may be.”

After the flashchat, Ms. Barefoot wrote to us:
“It is so important for our students to see a successful African-American female working in a profession that she loves. Her message resonated, especially the importance of hard work and following one’s passion. One student said it ‘was so neat that her love for her profession evolved from overcoming her fears.’

We couldn’t agree more, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for these Georgia scholars. The sky’s the limit!

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