The future scientist, who was homeschooled, showed off her talents at an early age while playing with Legos.
“She would organize the Legos by color, by size,” McQuarter said. “She was always strategic with her Legos, and if you messed up her Legos, it was a whole problem. If you took one of her Legos out of the little set, she knew that one of her Legos were missing.”
Recently, the soon-to-be university student used her Legos to build the Taj Mahal, the Disney castle, the Millennium Falcon, the Apollo 11 rover and a NASA rocket.
“I can’t pick a favorite, but if I could it would be the Millennium Falcon,” Alena said about the structure which took her about 14 hours to build.
Alena is also determined to help other Black girls who have similar aspirations. That’s why she launched The Brown Stem Girl website, which is described as “outlet for girls of color in STEM,” aiming “to engage, empower and educate.” In addition, the Texas native plans to provide a podcast for girls in STEM, as well as a children’s book titled Brainiac World.
On her podcast, the aspiring scientist hopes to speak with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut.
“My podcast is to encourage girls in STEM by bringing other women and girls of STEM to ask and answer questions,” she said.
Adding to her repertoire, Alena is learning Spanish and Arabic. Still, she makes times to hang out with friends, go to the mall, watch movies, sing and participate in track and field. The prodigy has also expanded her horizon by traveling to various places with her family and living abroad in Amman, Jordan.
“All my life, people are trying to hold me down because of my age,” the 12-year-old said. “We’re in a new year, in a new season, and no one can hold us down anymore. So you can keep your feet on the ground, but you can continue to reach for the stars.”
Data from the Pew Research Center concludes that Black and Hispanic workers are overwhelmingly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. According to the study, Black Americans make up 11% of the U.S. workforce overall, but represent only 9% of STEM workers. Hispanics account for 16% of the U.S. workforce, but only make up 7% of all STEM workers.