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These 3 Students Have Made HBCU History After Winning Astronaut Scholarships To Pursue STEM Careers


Three Black women are making history at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, NC.

According to WXII-12 in Winston-Salem, NC, students Kristi Barnes, Maya Odom, and Breyana Robinson have been selected as recipients of the 2023 Astronaut Scholarship. The scholarship is offered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established in 1984 by a group including the six surviving members of the “Mercury 7,” the U.S.’s first astronauts, per its website. The organization provides over 60 scholarships yearly.

Additionally, this scholarship is “among the largest merit-based monetary scholarships” distributed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate juniors and seniors.” Those who are recipients are supported with $15,000 and will receive mentorship and guidance from astronauts, top-tier executives, and industry leaders.

“I was thankful to get the scholarship,” Odom, an aspiring computer engineer, told WXII-12.

Robinson, an animal science major, commented, “To be able to win this award, it was surreal. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh’… It definitely helps me towards my goals because I want to go to vet school. I want to go to grad school.”

Winning the scholarship is a notable achievement in itself. It also marks the first time a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) has had more than one student honored with the Astronaut Scholarship simultaneously, WXII-12 noted.

“It’s very empowering to see Black women in their respective fields be a part of this cohort,” Barnes expressed to the outlet. She is looking to become a chemical engineer.

Odom added, “I didn’t really know the gravity of it until the scout really told me that this was the first time an HBCU ever had more than one scholar, or that there were three of us who got the scholarship.”

Data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics shows that only 9% of Black individuals work within STEM. Access to resources such as the Astronaut Scholarship can provide more opportunities to HBCU students and encourage them to continue pursuing their dreams.

Tonya Smith-Jackson, Ph.D., provost and executive vice chancellor of academic affairs at North Carolina A&T, shared in a statement on its website:

“Kristi, Maya, and Breyana’s achievements are shining examples of what Aggies do. Each is poised to improve mankind through their intelligence and service to others, and I know they will add great value to their new Astronaut Scholarship Foundation community.”

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