ETTRICK — This fall, Rachel Martin will be attending VSU with dreams to pursue coding as a career.
What’s even better is that she won’t need to spend a dime on her tuition, allowing her to graduate debt free.
“It’s still a shock to me,” Martin said. “Because it’s like, wow, I really worked hard to get here and I never thought I would be where I am.”
Martin hails from Danville and grew up in a single-parent home. Though they’ve had their challenges, Martin says she wouldn’t change a thing because that’s what shaped who she is today.
“She raised me well … me and my mom just have that best friend relationship,” Martin said. “Even when she was struggling on her own and thought the world was ending, she still managed to take care of me and provide everything that I needed.”
Martin says she’s determined to beat the odds.
“To be Black and to be a woman is way more challenging because, one we’re minority and two, we’re taken as weak, and not as experienced as everyone else … I have gone against those stereotypes and gone against the It just motivates me to do better. “
In addition, the percentage of Black programmers in this country is slim — just 6.3% —and the amount of Black women coders is even smaller.
“There’s not a lot of African American women who are in the computer science field and I learned about that. And I was like, well, maybe I could do something different. And with the right mindset, the right education, I could do something that could maybe blow up one day, “Martin said.
Martin’s interest in coding was sparked through the computer classes that she took and when she would help out her grandparents who had issues with their computer. She says everything about computers excites her.
“I just think it’s very cool,” she said. “There’s always a new update to something and also the way that it’s set up, like there’s so many parts of a computer and how they all form this big thing that we use every day.”
Martin’s great grandmother was a nurse and her grandmother was a high school science teacher, both working in STEM fields, which was rarer for Black women at the time.
Rachel says that it was her goal to pay as little out of pocket as necessary for tuition. With her receiving multiple scholarships through winning an essay contest and other applications she’s submitted on Scholarship Hub and Scholly, she’s made that possible.
“And the fact that that goal has actually been achieved, it’s just like wow. I’m beyond ecstatic … it all happened in a short amount of time.”
For high schoolers wanting to pursue their dreams but aren’t sure if they have the financial means to do so, Martin gives a word of encouragement. “Apply to as many scholarships as possible because you never know what you will get.”
“You’re stronger than you think, so don’t let other people cloud your judgment because they doubt your strength based on the color on the skin or where you’re from. To stand out is an accomplishment.”
Joyce Chu is the Social Justice Watchdog Reporter for The Progress Index. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @joyce_speaks.