“Wait, you’re how old?” This is a question I’m pretty used to getting, especially after telling someone my plans to graduate. Let’s back up a few steps first. I grew up on a farm in a small town in Kansas, population: 600. There were more cows than people, no really, I’m serious. Education was always something that was very important to me as (at the time) a straight A student involved in numerous clubs in activities. Around the age of twelve I joined Mensa International which only increased my drive for the pursuit of knowledge more.
Passion for the road
At age fifteen I was able to enroll in my first college class and I was ecstatic. High school was typically pretty boring for me as I never thought it provided enough of a challenge. While I was taking more advanced science classes my passion for botany continued to grow. As a kid I would go out with my dad to do soil samples in fields and he would tell me about the important nutrients that each crop needed for a good yield. During those times I probably wasn’t paying as much attention to what he was saying as I should have, I was just have too much fun digging up samples. I think it was a combination of those hot summer farm days and my new access to harder science classes that peaked my interest in STEM.
At age seventeen I was the first female to graduate with my Associates degree before my high school diploma for that area (only two had done it before me, both boys). That was probably my biggest accomplishment at the time, I was immensely proud of myself and all that hard work paid off by getting me into a Biology program at a private university in Kansas City.
Now we should be pretty much caught back up in the timeline. I’ll be graduating in May with my Bachelors at age nineteen, another early milestone since most people don’t graduate until they are twenty-one. While this is a huge accomplishment, I won’t say it was easy. Lots of long nights and early mornings, dealing with the prejudice associated with working in the STEM field as a young woman, and still keeping your head up through it all. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s also an honor to be a woman in STEM, working towards a better future that was laid out for us by previous groundbreaking female scientists.
If it weren’t for STEM I wouldn’t have learned what I am capable of under stressful conditions, I wouldn’t have been able to live on the East Coast for a summer doing internship research, I wouldn’t have met some amazing people or be able to tell you random facts and processes off of the top of my head. So keep your chin up ladies, because there are plenty of little girls watching that want to be scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians, just like us.