Alena Analeigh Wicker is like other 13-calendar year-olds in that she enjoys going to the films, playing soccer, baking and hanging out with buddies. But very a great deal not like other young adults, she just obtained recognized to health care faculty.
“I’m nonetheless a usual 13-12 months-outdated,” said Alena, a university student at the two Arizona Condition College and Oakwood College, wherever she is simultaneously earning two separate undergraduate degrees in organic sciences. “I just have extremely great time administration techniques and I’m very disciplined.”
In May well, Alena was offered a place at the University of Alabama’s Heersink Faculty of Medicine for 2024, as section of its Early Assurance Plan — which delivers early admission to applicants who meet up with precise demands. Alena is additional than 10 yrs young than the regular incoming healthcare pupil.
“What is age?” said Alena, who life just exterior Fort Value and is completing most of her classes online. “You’re not way too younger to do anything. I come to feel like I have verified to myself that I can do everything that I put my heart and brain to.”
When Alena was 3 many years aged, her mother commenced noticing that she was considerably from a typical toddler.
“Alena was gifted,” mentioned her mom, Daphne McQuarter. “It was just how she did matters and how superior she was. She was reading chapter publications.”
Discovering new techniques, Alena mentioned, arrived quickly to her, and the moment she started out college, she was sometimes taunted for her scholastic abilities.
“There was a minimal boy that bullied me, and he would tease me and phone me ‘smarty trousers,’” Alena recalled, adding that her mother made the decision to house-faculty her for various decades following the bullying started.
In fifth grade, she switched back to standard schooling, however she continued to acquire superior large school-stage courses at household, making use of a curriculum her mother developed. During the pandemic, Alena decided to expand her program load even far more.
For Alena, algebra was uncomplicated. Geometry was intuitive. Biology was a breeze.
“I was bored,” claimed Alena, who not long ago began making use of her center title, Analeigh, as her surname. “The superior faculty work was so effortless for me that I finished up graduating from high faculty at 12 decades previous.”
Taking further classes, Alena reported, was much more of a satisfaction than a pain. She flew by way of Harper Lee’s “To Get rid of a Mocking Bird” and John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Adult men.” As much as schoolwork went, none of it was a battle.
“I adore college, I appreciate studying, I adore reading through,” Alena said, adding that from a young age, she has experienced a certain interest in STEM — science, technological know-how, engineering and math.
On best of her devotion to schoolwork, Alena is also a budding entrepreneur and philanthropist. About a yr and a 50 percent in the past, she started the Brown STEM Woman — an group aimed at providing possibilities for women of coloration fascinated in discovering careers in STEM.
According to the Countrywide Science Board, women make up 28% of the science and engineering workforce, and of them, only about 5% are girls of shade. Alena is on a mission to adjust that.
“We’re demonstrating the planet that there is other women out there that are just like me, and they are worthy of an possibility and a opportunity,” mentioned Alena, detailing that her group has a arduous application process and offers fiscal scholarships, mentorship plans and additional sources to standout students. There are a lot more than 460 lively associates and about 2,000 ladies on a ready record, Alena mentioned, including that the business is funded by way of non-public donations.
She desired to generate a platform for girls like her “to come to feel like they belong somewhere,” she reported. “I characterize all the brainiac girls in the globe.”
The Brown STEM Girl is not Alena’s initially extracurricular endeavor. She has been executing talking engagements for many years, she stated, and she has acquired several honors and awards in the course of her everyday living. Not too long ago, she was named a single of Time’s Prime Child of the Yr Finalists for 2022, and she is also a released author.
Although trying to preserve up with close friends and frequent childhood actions, Alena has stayed laser-centered on her tutorial and specialist plans.
“I have a starvation and need to learn, and which is just often been me,” said Alena.
She turned NASA’s youngest intern in the summertime of 2021 — which was a very long-held aspiration.
Past year, Clayton Turner, the director of the agency’s Langley Research Center, arrived throughout a news story about Alena — then a 12-12 months-old who was headed to faculty and who hoped one particular day to function at NASA. He decided to reach out.
“I could not be more happy,” said Turner, who grew to become Alena’s mentor and received her an internship at the company, where by she did different assignments, together with remote investigation for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., which she frequented through her internship. “Alena is just one of individuals outstanding intellects.”
Further than her brains, what really sets her aside, Turner claimed, is her heart.
“What’s in her is seeking to assistance many others, wanting to elevate up others,” he stated.
Though Alena was at first keen to begin a job in engineering, following delving further more into the discipline by her undergraduate courses, she made the decision to modify course and pursue drugs.
“I wasted no time. I dropped a course, improved my significant, and when I took my initial biological class, I understood in that instant that this is what I’m meant to be carrying out,” she stated.
Her target, she ongoing, is to use her health care diploma to enable those in need to have.
“A huge portion of what I want to do is viral immunology, and I want to advocate for underrepresented communities that lack health treatment,” Alena stated. “It’s one thing that I’ve develop into passionate about.”
Her educators and advisers inspired her to utilize for early acceptance to clinical college.
“They’ve been vastly instrumental,” Alena claimed.
A single these types of mentor is Elaine Vanterpool, chair of the biology department at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. Whilst Alena normally takes most of her classes on line, she has expended time on campus finishing labs.
“She has a whole lot of talent,” stated Vanterpool, who taught Alena’s normal biology course. As her professor, “I seriously saw the generate and grit. She did effectively. She did not settle for considerably less than what she appreciates she’s able of.”
Vanterpool and other academic advisers inspired Alena to utilize for professional medical university, but she understood the possibilities of having accepted were being trim — in particular as a 13-12 months-previous Black female. The average acceptance charge at U.S. professional medical universities is 7%, and about 7% of those accepted are Black.
“Statistics would have mentioned I under no circumstances would have built it,” Alena wrote in an Instagram submit to her 18,000 followers about her the latest acceptance to clinical school.
Her accomplishment, Alena stated, is owed in large portion to her mom.
“My mother is incredible. She gave me prospects much more than items,” stated Alena, who has a 24-12 months-previous sister. “She taught me to consider further than and see outside of. For me, that was the greatest encounter.”
“We’ve experienced these types of an amazing romantic relationship for the reason that I usually gave her the room to be a child, develop, make blunders and discover,” explained McQuarter. “She knew she always had a voice in something, which include her training.”
Persons often tell Alena she is growing up far too fast. To that, she responds: “I don’t assume I’m missing any part of my childhood. I get a childhood, and it’s wonderful.”
In her spare time, Alena plays athletics — together with soccer and track and area — and she loves heading to the arcade with friends. She also enjoys singing, cooking and vacation.
Through fostering her academic and experienced ambitions early on, Alena hopes to serve as an inspiration to some others, and to establish that someone’s age should not stand in the way of their achievement.
“I would say to any very little female out there that’s reading this: Under no circumstances give up on you, hardly ever let an individual tell you that you just cannot do anything,” Alena reported.
She is expected to entire her two undergraduate degrees by the spring of 2024, and she will get started healthcare college that drop.
“I never assume it’s heading to be straightforward, but I have a enormous assistance system about me that pushes me and cheers me on,” Alena stated.
Via it all, she ideas to continue on advocating for other younger persons who are full of untapped potential.
“It feels awesome to be in a position to create a path for girls that look like me,” Alena explained. “It does not make any difference how previous you are. You can do it. Really don’t enable anyone explain to you no.”