By Nilah Williamson
I’ve been to a total of seven STEM Programs, and all of them have helped direct me towards the career I want to pursue which is aviation. I give major props but also apologies to my dad because as much as he encouraged me to do STEM I pushed back just as hard. A few years ago, I did not want to do anything STEM related. My parents enrolled me in a robotics camp at the high school near me during the summer of my seventh-grade year. Even though that would’ve been my first experience, I thought I wouldn’t like it. Of course, since parents are always right, I ended up loving the camp and wanting to do more things like that.
After going to a few other STEM programs, I realized engineering wasn’t my favorite part of the acronym, but I also discovered I loved science and math. For a long time, I enjoyed coding and thought I wanted to have a job in coding and programming. Then I went to FOCUS which exposed me to many other STEM careers. That is where I found out about forensic science. I remember it was in a classroom at George Mason University, and the instructor showed us a model of how people use science to solve accidents and crime scenes. Since then, I’ve loved the idea and looked into more fields of forensics. I found more of a liking to crime laboratory analysts after doing labs at the Naval Academy and the University of Virginia. Both were amazing hands-on experiences, especially with the Naval Academy being my first college of choice. Going to the Naval Academy’s Summer STEM last summer also confirmed my interest in aviation. Though I enjoy forensic science, aviation is my first choice.
Four years ago, I went to a leadership program for girls where a guest speaker brought in a plane simulator. I don’t know what it was about it, but I enjoyed it so much that I have continued to pursue my love for aviation since then. Last summer, I went to Elizabeth City State University for an aviation camp where I learned about many other jobs in the aviation industry. We went to the airport and got special tours from the airport security, police officers, and on-site fire fighters. We met flight paramedics in helicopters and a hot air balloon pilot, but I wanted to fly planes, big planes. At the Naval Academy, I learned about just that. Everything I learned about aviation was so fascinating and encouraged me to pursue my dreams even more.
Now as a high school junior when I talk to twelve-year old girls who say they don’t want to go to the STEM program their parents are making them attend, I tell them to give it a chance. I tell them that I used to feel the exact way they’re feeling, but once I tried it, I loved it. I let them know STEM is more than just building Lego robots because it involves science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM leaves the whole world open.