Last Updated on June 24, 2016 by Andre Loftis

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“By supporting the development of girls’ confidence in their ability to learn math and science, we help motivate interest in these fields. Women’s educational progress should be celebrated, yet more work is needed to ensure that women and girls have full access to educational and employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

American Association of University Women

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Lela Owens, graduate of Citrus Hills High School in Perris and recipient of the coveted Southern California Ronald McDonald House Charities Future Achievers Scholarship Award will attend Duke University in the fall.

Owens, the eldest of three siblings, has set a wonderful example for her two younger brothers while at the same time, furthering a tradition as the third generation in her family to attend college.

According to Owens, she selected Duke University because of its excellent STEM program in addition to the academic freedom it offers students to also explore courses outside one’s major.

Owens plans to major in Computer Science with hopes of one day landing a position in a high tech company like Google. She also has another goal in mind—to bring her knowledge, skills and abilities back to her community, particularly Citrus High School, to serve as a mentor. She wants to encourage and assist students interested in pursuing STEM related courses.

Although Owens is passionate about exploring the field of Computer Science, interestingly, it was not until she became a high school senior that she took her first computer science course. According to Owens, it really ignited her thinking. “In Computer Science everything is based on logic,” she explained. “As a Computer Scientist you have to consider all of the steps [in a process]—it forces you to slow down your thinking and think logically through every step.”

According to Owens, Computer Science has helped her in other areas as well. Whether it involved seeking a solution to problem in the classroom or in life, “I now consider all things before just doing it. I sort of connect everything back to Computer Science.”

When asked how she would encourage younger students to consider taking a Computer Science class?  Not surprisingly, she already has. “I was Cheerleading Captain at my school,” she shared. “A lot of the girls on my team would see me in class studying for an Advanced Placement (AP) course or Computer Science exam or another class and they would ask me how hard it was? I always encouraged them by saying, ‘It is not as hard as you think.’”

Owens would like to see her school consider some type of mentorship program to encourage more students to participate in STEM related courses and involve upperclassmen or those who are already in college to act as mentors. “I would like to come back and tell younger students how classes like AP and Computer Science have helped me along the way.”

Owens’ idea could be a welcomed way to address an issue that continues to be of concern to educators and others—African Americans in particular and girls in general continue to be under represented in STEM related courses, particularly physics.

This is one reason scholarships like the Ronald McDonald House Charities Awards (RMHCA) for Future Achievers are such a welcomed benefit to the educational goal attainments of students like Owens—high achieving African American students who plan to attend a four-year university with a focus on a STEM. Such awards also serve as an incentive for younger students to pursue STEM courses so they too can compete for such awards.

Owens is a graduate of Citrus Hills High School in Perris, California.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.