A record-breaking 80 students participated in California’s only African-American science fair, an annual function sponsored by Frank S. Green Scholars Program, at Cypress Semiconductor’s San Jose headquarters.
The students are on a mission to defy the common career paths of sports and music that society oftentimes pressures African-American children to pursue. “A lot of people consider African-Americans not as smart, and I think showing somebody that, yes, we can do all these things, is important,” said twelve-year-old Natania JonesMitchell, who explained her absorption of light experiment in English and Spanish. When asked how she feels about being the only African-American girl in her grade at her middle school, the pre-teen replied: “Sometimes I get racist jokes, but it’s fun to know I’m different from everyone else — but still the same.”
Tenth grader Cialysiah Washington, can relate to JonesMitchell’s experience. She is one of only two African-Americans in her class. “Just because I’m African-American, people think I can’t do chemistry. So when I do say I’m into chemistry, they are kind of surprised.” At the science fair, she explained the results of her project, which involved plunging her father’s feet in ice to test the ability of video games to distract from pain.
Founder Debra Watkins believes the program is a refuge of some sort for African-American children to feel comfortable with pursuing a career in the sciences. “It’s a refuge,” Watkins said. “Sometimes they’re made to feel black people don’t do science. They hear: ‘Who do you think you are?‘ ”