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Meet Wilmington’s STEM Queen, 16-year-old Jacqueline Means

Five questions with the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative's teen founder.

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Women in Tech month.

At just 16, Delaware Military Academy junior Jacqueline Means has made a name for herself — and that name is “STEM Queen.”

Means is from Southbridge, a low-income industrial area on the south side of the Christina River known for a high dropout rate and a lack of education resources — and the violence that kind of marginalization often leads to. She founded the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative (WUSI) two years ago to combat that marginalization.

“My turning point came when I witnessed a person no older than myself get gunned down in the street near my home,” she said. “I knew then that I had to offer help in some way — to provide a different picture of what life could be to the children in my community who were only getting one image of their potential futures. I want my community to be a better place and help the kids in it to realize they can become anything they want to be.”

When she’s not running the WUSI or conducting science experiments, Means participates in Chess Club and Business Professionals of America, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

We caught up with her for Women in Tech month, and asked her five questions:

1. What do you do as STEM Queen?

Through my Initiative, I host Girls Empowerment STEM Events, which is a fun, creative way I found to get girls involved with STEM by doing hands-on science experiments. At each event, every girl not only gets to do her own science experiments, like making alginate worms, snow, slime and dry ice ice-cream, but she also get an interactive anti-bullying demonstration and social media awareness.

We’ve also had a nutritionist from Shop-Rite talk about healthy eating habits and inspiring talks from prominent women from their community, including Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Dr. Joan Coker, Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter, Cimone Philpotts and Erin Hutt.

2. What is your mission?

I hope to raise the percentage of women in science, technology, engineering and math fields from 29 percent to as high as possible! I aim to inspire a younger generation of girls to pursue educations and careers in STEM fields, especially girls of color.

It’s imperative that we, as a society, utilize all available talent and potential. I’m showing them that aiming high is a realistic goal, and that by believing in one’s own abilities and working hard, it’s possible to face any challenge with grace and  overcome obstacles to change their circumstances for the betterment of everyone. I mean, who knows? One of these girls may find the cure for Alzheimer’s.

Young STEM queens reacting to the "elephant toothpaste" experiment

Young STEM queens reacting to the “elephant toothpaste” experiment. (Courtesy photo)

3. Any fun STEM Queen stories?

Yes! When I started planning my very first Girls Empowerment STEM Event over two years ago, I knew I wanted prominent, inspiring women to speak to the girls, so I invited Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. I knew she was a very busy woman, so I decided I’d understand if she couldn’t make it. Her assistant got back to me and said she’d be there if she could.

Fast forward to the day of the event, and Ms. Lisa is not there. Were were just getting started, and then BAM! She walked right in! I was so happy to see her and so grateful that she took the time to come to my STEM event and speak to the girls about all the obstacles she has overcome.

Not only did she speaks top the girls, she also did an experiment with us! We made really cool lava lamps. It was a blast!

Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester and Jacqueline Means (center, left to right) conduct an experiment at the first Girls Empowerment STEM event.

Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester and Jacqueline Means (center, left to right) conduct an experiment at the first Girls Empowerment STEM event. (Courtesy photo)

4. What’s your favorite experiment?

My favorite experiment is definitely Elephant Toothpaste! The experiment starts out very small, less than a cup of liquid, but then the girls and I add the catalyst, and BOOM! The mixture comes out in a super big, foamy stream! The reaction is instantaneous and really cool. I love watching the girls’ faces light up from ear to ear when they see something so awesome happen!

5. What are your future plans?

My ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon. To begin that journey, I will be attending college to obtain my bachelor’s degree at either of my dream schools: University of Delaware or Princeton (hopefully on a full ride!), where I will study courses like microbiology, biochemistry and human anatomy. After that, I will go to med school and continue on my path of becoming a world-class neurosurgeon!  I also see myself still doing whatever I can to encourage girls to get involved with STEM.

You can follow the STEM Queen’s journey on Facebook.

Series: Women in Tech Month 2019

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