Alena Analeigh Wicker has undoubtedly stamped her name in the history books after becoming the youngest Black person to have been accepted into medical school in the United States. In addition, she holds the enviable record of being the youngest person to intern at NASA.
Alena Analeigh spent most of her childhood in Texas. Her mother, Daphne McQuarter, homeschooled her at some point when Wicker was bullied for her intelligence. “There was a little boy that bullied me, and he would tease me and call me ‘smarty pants,” Alena told Washington Post. Wicker wasn’t excluded from the difficulties of racial or gender stereotypes. Her principal was quoted as saying “she couldn’t get all A’s because of her skin colour.” The prodigy has an elder sister.
Alena switched back to traditional schooling blending it with home learning under the directives of a curriculum McQuarter created. She further used the pandemic as an opportunity to broaden her knowledge of her apportioned course load.
Analeigh had cultivated a reading habit since the toddler age of three. Therefore, her encounter with subjects like algebra or biology was child’s play. It wasn’t anything close to rocket science. “I was bored,” said Alena. “The high school work was so easy for me that I ended up graduating from high school at 12 years old.”
Following her graduation from high school at age 12, she enrolled in two undergraduate programs at Arizona State University and Oakwood University. Analeigh had meticulously observed the downward trajectory of black people and women in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These groups were sidelined in that lucrative field, which led her to establish The Brown STEM Girl (BSG) website. The intention behind the development was to land girls of colour learning opportunities and break the yoke of financial barriers hindering their learning.
Analeigh garnered keen interest in becoming a NASA engineer. She double-majored in astronomical and planetary science. However, she usurped her passion for medicine after a BSG foundation trip to the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. “A big part of what I want to do is viral immunology, and I want to advocate for underrepresented communities that lack health care,” Alena told Washington Post. “It’s something that I’ve become passionate about.” A determined Alena finally switched her major to Pre-Med. She is already halfway through her program and degrees in Bachelor of Science and Master of Science rightfully await her in 2024.
That wouldn’t be the end of her educational strides. On May 13, 2022, under the auspice of the Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program, she was granted admission into the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine. This achievement will crown her as the youngest Black medical student in American history. The program links the university with other Black colleges and universities across Alabama to render early acceptance to medical students who meet the requirements for admission.
Alena’s involvement with NASA was proudly sponsored by the director of the Langley Research Center, Clayton Turner. He had encountered the intriguing story of Alena sometime last year and decided to reach out. He instantly became Analeigh’s mentor and provided her with an internship opportunity at the agency, where she did various assignments, including remote research for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California. She became NASA’s youngest intern. That same year, Alena Analeigh Wicker was nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30.