Girl, 12, Attending College This May, Wants to Work for NASA: 'Continue to Reach for the Stars'

Rachel DeSantis
·3 min read

D Lacy Photography Alena Wicker

A 12-year-old soon-to-be college student is reaching for not just the stars, but beyond, too, as she inches closer to her lifelong dream of becoming the youngest Black woman to ever work for NASA.

While most kids her age are eagerly anticipating summer break, Alena Wicker is preparing to graduate from high school before she heads to Arizona State University next month, Good Morning America reported.

The aspiring engineer from Texas told the outlet she plans to double major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry, a path she hopes will one day take her to NASA to build a space rover.

Alena told GMA that her passion for STEM began as a child, when she discovered how much she loved building with Legos. Before long, she was constructing elaborate set-ups, from the Taj Mahal to the Millennium Falcon, a feat she said took her 14 to 15 hours to complete over two days.

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"She would organize the Legos by color, by size," mom Diane McQuarter said. "She was always strategic with her Legos, and if you messed up her Legos, it was a whole problem. If you took one of her Legos out of the little set, she knew that one of her Legos were missing."

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McQuarter told GMA her daughter — who she says is "the goofy kid in the family" — has never wavered in her future goals, and has always known her preferred career path.

"She would always say, 'Mommy, I'm going to work for NASA.' Then she would start saying, 'I'm going to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for NASA – watch,'" she said.

Daphne McQuarter Alena Wicker's Millennium Falcon

After just over a decade of life, Alena has already made incredible strides toward that goal, and as she gears up for college, is doing her part to make sure other girls like her have the same opportunities.

With that in mind, she launched her own website, The Brown Stem Girl, which is a self-described "outlet for girls of color in STEM [that aims] to engage, empower and educate."

She also has a podcast up her sleeve for girls in STEM, and a children's book called Brainiac World, a title that serves as her way of reclaiming a word kids used to tease her when she was younger.

Daphne McQuarter Alena Wicker

Daphne McQuarter Alena Wicker

As if that wasn't enough, the tween is also learning Spanish and Arabic, though she still leaves plenty of time for hobbies such as hanging out with friends, going to the mall, watching movies and TV, singing and track and field, according to GMA.

"All my life, people are trying to hold me down because of my age," she said. "We're in a new year, in a new season, and no one can hold us down anymore. So you can keep your feet on the ground, but you can continue to reach for the stars."