Defy the odds

Mae C. Jemison, Visionary

“What do you want to be when you grow up” is a question commonly asked of children. It elicits varied responses that can sometimes be surprising. What happens, however, when the person asking the question tells the child, “You can’t become that?”

How many possible dreams are deterred because of someone else’s limited vision?

Defy the odds.

Meet Mae Carol Jemison, a NASA astronaut, engineer, physician, college professor and dancer. On September 12, 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space. She was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Ala.

Upon reflection, Jemison had stated that when she told her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to become a scientist, that teacher responded by saying: “Don’t you mean a nurse?” Not only would Jemison become a scientist, but her childhood proclamation would take her out of this world. She defied the odds.

Before Jemison, there had never been an African-American woman astronaut. What her kindergarten teacher did not realize was that she was teaching a future history maker. She did not know that Jemison would one day go into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. If she had known, maybe her response would have been more supportive.

Mae C. Jemison Photos, VisionaryIn 1993, Jemison founded the Jemison Group, a company that researches, markets and develops science and technology for daily life, and in 1999, she founded BioSentient Corp.

Through this entity, she has been working to develop a portable device that allows mobile monitoring of the involuntary nervous system. This work may result in treatment for anxiety, nausea, migraine and tension headaches, chronic pain, hypertension and hypotension and stress-related disorders.

Jemison is a strong advocate in favor of science education and for getting minority students interested in science. Likewise, she is an active public speaker who appears before private and public audiences to promote science and technology. She also delivers inspirational and educational messages to the youth.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s bravery and audacity, Jemison has said that “The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.”

Others will limit you, but you do not have to limit yourself and in turn, deny yourself the opportunity of maximizing your full potential.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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