The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for creating innovative videos to inform applicants about when admissions decisions will be revealed. This year’s video featured Marvel Comics character Riri Williams—a African-American teenage superhero, highlighting the importance of representation.
This time around, the short film features Marvel Comics character Riri Williams — the teenage girl who briefly served as the new Iron Man before becoming the armored superhero Ironheart — as she studies at MIT, assembles her armored suit, and takes it for a test flight to deliver admissions letters. Titled “Not all heroes wear capes — but some carry tubes (Pi Day 2017),” the video references MIT’s tradition of sending out the admissions letters in tubes, and delivering them on March 14, a date also known as Pi Day.
In the video, MIT student Ayomide F. takes on the role of Williams, who was introduced in the May 2016 issue of Invincible Iron Man. A 15-year-old engineering prodigy attending MIT, Williams built her own suit of Iron Man armor from equipment she stole around campus and caught Tony Stark’s eye after apprehending a pair of escaped inmates while wearing the armor. In Marvel Comics lore, she eventually filled in for Tony when he became sick and took the name Ironheart as her superhero nickname.
Harvard student Rahsaan King, A.B. ’17, is acutely aware that his life could very easily have taken a tragic turn.
While growing up in a tough neighborhood in Houston, King fell in with a rough crowd of young men, many of whom dropped out of school, wound up in prison, or became victims of gang violence. All signs pointed to King following a similar path—he was expelled from the private boarding school he attended, Chinquapin Preparatory School, squandering his first chance for success.
“During my time away from prep school, I realized how beautiful that experience was—what a great opportunity it had been for me—and something in me changed,” he said. “I studied harder. I became more focused and ambitious. I was hungry for excellence and education.”
Readmitted to Chinquapin, King was given a second chance and this time he buckled down. He was elected to lead the student council, graduated at the top of his class, and was accepted into Harvard, earning a prestigious Gates Millennium Award to supplement his tuition.
“Education was my way out of darkness. It was my way out of poverty,” he said. “Once I succeeded, I felt compelled to help other people do what I have done.”
Students of Strength is unique because it enables middle and high school students to receive academic help instantly from coaches at prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, and MIT. The system incorporates a user-friendly mobile app that makes it easy for students to reach tutors and ask questions.
Beyond tutoring, academic coaches also serve as mentors who offer advice on preparing for/applying to college, and encouragement when students feel lost, overwhelmed, or hopeless. The program provides test pep and character-building curricula that use videos, games, and practice problems to prepare students for the intellectual and emotional challenges inherent to pursuing higher education.
“Because the students are interacting with peers instead of professionals, it makes it much easier for them to relate to their academic coaches,” King said.
Having relatable mentors is especially important for the underserved students who are the focus of the program. For every two sessions the organization sells, it donates one to a low-income student. Corporate sponsors are able to “adopt” low-income schools to provide Students of Strength coaches for entire classes of underprivileged students.
A dedicated group of volunteer liaisons help King recruit new academic coaches at universities across the nation. He hopes to have 10,000 tutors on board by the end of 2016.
Stephanie Lampkin, a black female engineer, has seen her share of workplace discrimination. Despite the fact that she was a full-stack web developer by the age of 15 and then went on to get her education at Stanford and then MIT, she often had a hard time getting her foot in the door to get into the tech industry, which has long been dominated by white men.
But Lampkin has developed an app that would help to curb discrimination in hiring by eliminating even unconscious bias from the hiring process.
The app, called Blendoor, uploads resumes without a name or a picture so that candidates are judged solely on their merits and their technical abilities.
“My company resonates more with white men when I position it as, ‘hey, I want to help you find the best talent. Your unconscious mind isn’t racist, sexist — it’s totally natural, and we’re trying to help you circumvent it,’” she told Forbes.
Already, Lampkin has 19 large tech firms signed up to use the app, which will also collect job data to see how those who are seeking jobs are matching up with positions they would be qualified for.
Since 1940, the United States Postal Service has paid homage to the countless achievements made by African-American men and women through stamps that immortalize those individuals who had an impact on this country’s history.
Now Robert Robinson Taylor (pictured), the first academically trained black architect in the U.S. and, coincidentally, the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, was honored on USPS’ 38th Black Heritage stamp, issued yesterday, February 12.
Taylor was born in Wilmington, N.C. 1868 to a middle-class family. Taylor’s grandfather was a white slave owner, who freed his son, Henry Taylor, in 1847.Robert’s mother was descended from free blacks since before the Civil War. Upon graduating high school, Taylor worked for his father a bit but then attended the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where prejudice awaited him and the other handful of blacks who dared to attend.
During his four years at MIT, Taylor worked hard and managed to maintain an above average grade point average. He went on to graduate from MIT in 1892 becoming the first black person to receive a degree from the university.
Upon graduating MIT, Taylor married his wife, Nellie and landed a job at Tuskegee as an architect and educator through a close relationship he forged with Booker T. Washington. Taylor designed most of the university’s buildings built before 1932. He retired from his university posts in 1935.
Taylor collapsed and passed away in 1942 while attending a service at the Tuskegee chapel which he had designed.
Last year the USPS honored the meritorious works of such African-American greats as Shirley Chisholm, Ralph Ellison, Jimi Hendrix, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, Edna Lewis and Wilt Chamberlain through stamps.
If Rhys Powell gets his way, every student in America will be eating freshly prepared, nutritious meals and snacks – and his company, Harlem-based Red Rabbit, will be doing a lot of the serving. Red Rabbit’s already making some big leaps in that direction. Launched in 2005, Powell’s startup is quickly becoming a force in the healthy food for kids biz. This coming school year, Red Rabbit will be preparing and delivering 20,000 meals a day to students in more than 100 private and charter schools in the New York area.
That means many children from low-income communities will be munching on healthy items like mango yogurt parfaits and fresh fish, instead of chicken nuggets and frozen pizza. Sales at Red Rabbit are expected to double in the 2013 school year to $10 million. Two years ago, the company moved to a 10,000 square-foot facility at 121st St. and Park Ave., where Powell, 33, employs 130 workers, many of them Harlem residents.
Those kind of strides have put Powell in the spotlight: On Monday the city is set to name Red Rabbit the Manhattan Small Business of the Year in its annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards. “We are a young, entrepreneurial company that is trying to improve the food system in America, one community at a time,” Powell said during an interview at his Harlem offices.
Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) is one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies. It has a membership of more than 4,000 scholars from a wide variety of academic disciplines including all the natural sciences. Its membership includes at least 200 Nobel Prize winners and more than 50 winners of a Pulitzer Prize. This year, 198 new fellows were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Among the new fellows are three African American women with ties to academia.
• Paula T. Hammond is the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
• Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
• Natasha Trethewey is the Poet Laureate of the United States and the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing and holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University in Atlanta.
Wesley L. Harris, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and associate provost for faculty equity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been selected to receive the 2012 President’s Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Dr. Harris is being honored for leadership in promoting the advancement of Black and other minorities in STEM disciplines. He will receive the award at the organization’s annual conference in Washington.
Dr. Harris is a graduate of the University of Virginia. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is the former dean of engineering at the University of Connecticut and served as associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA.
David Boone used to sleep on this bench in Artha Woods Park when he had nowhere else to go. Next fall, the senior at Cleveland’s MC2STEM High School is headed to Harvard.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — David Boone had a system. There wasn’t much the then-15-year-old could do about the hookers or drug deals around him when he slept in Artha Woods Park. And the spectator’s bench at the park’s baseball diamond wasn’t much of a bed.
But the aspiring engineer, now 18 and headed to Harvard University in the fall, had no regular home. Though friends, relatives and school employees often put him up, there were nights when David had no place to go, other than the park off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
So he says he made the best of those nights on the wooden bench.
His book bag became his pillow, stuffed with textbooks first — for height, he says — and papers on top for padding.
In the morning, David would duck into his friend Eric’s house after Eric’s parents left early for work so he could shower and dress before heading to class at Cleveland’s specialized MC2STEM High School. David expects to graduate from there next month as salutatorian of the new school’s first graduating class.
“I’d do my homework in a rapid station, usually Tower City since they have heat, and I’d stay wherever I could find,” he said.
If you meet David Boone today, his gentle, confident demeanor and easygoing laugh betray no cockiness over racking up a college acceptance record that others brag about for him. He was accepted at 22 of the 23 schools he applied to — including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown and Penn.
He also gives no hint of the often harsh and nomadic life he has led. The medical problems he faced as a boy, a splintered family, being homeless — it all could have left him bitter and angry.
But David says that giving up would have left himstuck in a dead-end life, so it was never an option.
“I didn’t know what the results of not giving up were going to be, but it was better than nothing and having no advantages,” he said. “I wanted to be in a position to have options to do what I want to do.”