(NEW YORK) — Alena Analeigh Wicker, a 13-year-old Texas girl, isn’t preparing for back to school like most kids her age.
Alena has already been accepted into medical school, with plans to attend the Heersink School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“After being accepted, it was the most amazing moment,” Alena said Thursday on “Good Morning America.” “Just knowing that I achieved the goal of getting into medical school at this age was amazing to me.”
She plans to start medical school in 2024, after graduating from the two undergraduate programs she is currently enrolled in, studying biological sciences at Arizona State University and Oakwood University.
“My goals right now are to definitely do well in college so I can get into medical school,” she said, adding that she wanted to become a viral immunologist so she could “study viruses and really help the communities”.
Alena, who received the President’s Volunteer Service Award lifetime achievement award on Thursday, graduated from high school last year at just 12 years old.
She’s also the founder of Brown Stem Girl, an organization she said she started to provide an outlet for girls of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math courses).
“I started the organization because when I was about 3 years old and first had my passion working for NASA, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me,” Alena said. . “I haven’t seen a lot of girls and a lot of women entering the STEM field.”
“That’s what got me passionate about standing up for them, really giving them those opportunities and showing them that they can do whatever they want,” she continued. “They can follow the same path as me and become whatever they want to become without anyone telling them it’s impossible.”
According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 13% of engineers are women and only 8% of female students enter their first year with the intention of majoring in engineering, math, statistics or computer science.
Among STEM workers, blacks make up just 9% of the industry, with that number dropping to 7% for Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center.
Alena’s mother, Daphne McQuarter, said she saw her daughter’s academic and STEM talents early on.
“She was just always smart, gifted and always ahead,” McQuarter said on ‘GMA.’ “There was just something about her that I knew I had to nurture her gift.”
Alena called her mother her “biggest supporter”.
“She always gave me opportunities and she believed in me,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to other kids who also want to dream big, Alena said to ignore those who say “no” to them.
“First of all, I would say don’t let anyone tell you no, because a lot of people have told me no, or that I couldn’t do what I dreamed of,” she said. “I also had this support system. They were there when I needed them and they gave me that support to say, ‘Don’t give up on your dreams.'”
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