In one of the many articles about you, you said you created Etana “for women and girls who remind you of yourself: dreamers met with cultural barriers constantly trying to reduce them to nothing.” Can you explain how this is personal for you?
I believe that I am so fortunate to be in the US, at a school [like the Illinois Math and Science Academy] that has opportunities most people can only dream of. I have also seen firsthand how COVID-19 impacted girls around the world from visits to Kenya. So many people had stopped going to school and were forced to give up on their dreams. I think this project is not only helpful in its technical efforts but in setting an example for girls on learning how to think outside the box.
Absolutely true. Do you think that part of Etana’s success is because it is so personal?
What kept me motivated is my passionate interest in using technology to help and support the women the world seems to be leaving behind. I am constantly brainstorming projects that revolve around education and looking into how we can use technology to provide educational resources and opportunities for girls in hard-to-reach areas.
If anything, this project truly taught me persistence. Not that I have ever been the type of person to leave a project half-done, but this truly did test me. I’ve never had so many ups and downs. I feel as though I truly learned how to adapt, think outside of the box, and appreciate the little things. I think because I was so passionate about what I was building, the idea of quitting was never an option.
What else do you like to do with your time? Any other hobbies? Any other passions? Do you have a sense of what you’re doing next?
I really enjoy watching sports (I am a HUGE basketball fan). I also really enjoy nature, hiking, and visiting national parks. I think they are fun activities to do with my friends, and they’re relaxing too.
I am going to college next year and hoping to major in computer science. I’m working on a few smaller projects, and want to have a tech startup in the near future.
Okay: your biggest piece of advice for young women who want to pursue STEM careers?
STRUGGLE THROUGH IT. There are so many times I wanted to give up, but was driven by the importance of making space for myself in these areas. I often was the only woman in the room and always the only black woman. Because of this, I had to CONSTANTLY remind myself that I was working for more than just me, that I was working for all the younger girls who would then be able to look up to me.
Finally, is there any way people can help with your project? We always like to help spread the word if we can!
Just keep updated! I try to update my websites pretty frequently, and all updates and fundraisers will always be listed there.These are the two places to find me and my work: www.womenasi.org and www.etana.us.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and incredibly inspiring ideas with us, Liz. We will definitely keep updated on all of the amazing things you’re doing. Good luck with all of it!