Photo courtesy of Angelica Stewart
Since migrating to the U.S. from Jamaica, Angelica Stewart graduated from high school with honors, was accepted into 14 universities, and was one of 25 high-performing undergraduate students selected for the NASA's Student Airborne Science Activation (SaSa) 2022 Program. She's come a long way from daydreaming of a bright future in Portmore.
Like many raised in the Caribbean, Angelica's days outside the classroom were filled with visits to the beach and cricket games with friends. She also developed a passion for netball and became an exceptionally talented all-rounder for the Queen Park United Club. But life for Angelica was not all fun and games. She came from a low-income family, which made life challenging. Furthermore, the cost of attending the prestigious Wolmer's Trust High School in Kingston put an additional strain on her family.
A lot was expected of Angelica because of the sacrifices her parents made to provide for her. She had to mature faster than her peers. This eventually took a toll on her. Though she isn't ready to discuss the gravity of the impact, Angelica believes her upbringing taught her the importance of being responsible and making the most of her opportunities.
At age fifteen, Angelica moved to Orlando, Florida with her parents in search of better opportunities. While the people, the culture, and the academic structure were different from what she was used to, adapting to life in Florida came relatively easy for Angelica. She was determined to excel in school in hopes of getting an academic scholarship to attend college.
Achieving Academic Excellence
Angelica attended Maynard Evans High School. During her time there, she was the Junior and Senior Class President and the Vice President of the AVID Council, a national program designed to support and assist students to become college and career-ready. Stewart worked hard and achieved her goal, graduating Summa Cum Lade. With an outstanding academic performance, Angelica was awarded the AP Scholar Award, the Super Scholar Award, and the Trojan of the Year Award.
The honor student was accepted into fourteen of the fifteen universities she applied to and received three scholarships: the Oakland Presbyterian Church Scholarship, the Howard University Achievers Scholarship, and the Orange County Foundation Scholarship. Securing the scholarships was a massive weight lifted off her shoulders. "I did not want to add the stress of college tuition to my life and that of my parents," she said.
Her decision to attend Howard University was an easy one. In addition to a full-ride scholarship, Angelica felt Howard would provide the best experience for her academically and socially. Howard has a large Caribbean student population, which Stewart felt made the transition from home effortless. "I chose Howard because within my three years living in America, before attending Howard, I felt unsettled with the racial issue in America." The first-generation college student said she wasn't prepared mentally to deal with the racial discrimination or microaggression she could potentially face at a non-HBCU.
Angelica Student on campus at Howard University in Washington, DC
The rising sophomore is a computer science major and will be working at NASA as a researcher this summer. She had initially applied for a summer internship at Google but was not selected. "After feeling very discouraged from Google's rejection, I was encouraged by my mentor from the I Rise program, a history-making physicist, Dr. Arlene Maclin to apply for research internships which included NASA."
The eight-week summer experience with NASA, starts with a two-week introductory workshop at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Howard University Beltsville Campus research facility. From there, Angelica will get hands-on training, from satellite application to disaster monitoring, including identifying hurricanes, chemical spills, tornadoes, and volcanic plumes. She will gain experience in all aspects of a scientific field campaign, including planning mission objectives and flying on a NASA research aircraft to collect land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements. The program will conclude with the interns processing and analyzing the collected field data and presenting their early results to their peers, mentors, and other stakeholders at UMBC. Stewart hopes the SaSa program will provide her with practical research experience that she can utilize as she pursues her career endeavors.
NASA SaSa Program - Class of 2022/ Photo nasa.gov/sasa
In Pursuit of Technology Innovation in Jamaica
The aspiring tech entrepreneur envisions a future where she, through her business ventures, can provide technology-based jobs to the people of Jamaica and STEM mentorship to Jamaica's youth.
Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, athletes, and music; however, the technology sector is limited. This hinders economic growth and improved standards of living. Angelica would like to see Jamaica become a thriving technology and innovation hub in the Caribbean. She is determined to do her part to make this a reality.
The road ahead for Angelica is filled with many unknowns, but one thing we do know is her determination to be successful will be her guiding light.