'Don't let anybody tell you no, because there was a lot of people who told me no, or that I couldn't do what I dreamed to do,' the teen advised.
Unlike most teenagers her age right now, Alena Analeigh Wicker isn't preparing for back to school. Instead, this 13-year-old from Texas is busy pursuing two separate undergraduate degrees in biological sciences at Arizona State University and Oakwood University—all while she gears up to start medical school in 2024. Alena made headlines earlier this month when she announced on Instagram that she has been accepted to a medical school program only a year after graduating high school. "I've worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams. Mama, I made it," the teenager captioned a picture of her program acceptance letter.
According to CNN, Alena has been accepted into the Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Heersink School of Medicine. According to the school website, the program is a partnership between the medical school and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across Alabama and provides early acceptance "for students who meet the requirements for acceptance and matriculation." Speaking to Good Morning America about her latest achievement, Alena said: "After I was accepted, it was the most amazing moment. Just knowing that I've reached the goal of getting into medical school at this age was amazing for me."
Alena Analeigh Wicker is like other 13-year-olds in that she enjoys going to the movies, playing soccer, baking and hanging out with friends. But very much unlike other teenagers, she just got accepted to medical school.https://t.co/GfTFtnLFsV— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 21, 2022
"My goals right now are to definitely make it through college so I can go into medical school," the teen added. Alena, who graduated from high school last year at just 12 years old, revealed that she wants to become a viral immunologist to be able to "study viruses and really help communities." She added another feather to her illustrious cap this week when she was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award's lifetime achievement award on Thursday. To top it all off, Alena is also the founder of Brown Stem Girl, an organization she launched to provide an outlet for girls of color in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics streams).
"I started the organization because when I was about 3 and I had first had my passion of working for NASA, I didn't see a lot of people who looked like me," said Alena. "I didn't see a lot of girls and a lot of women getting into the STEM field. That's what struck my passion for advocating for them, really giving them those opportunities and showing them that they can do whatever they put their mind to. They can have the same path as me and become whatever they want to become without anybody telling them it's impossible."
According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 13% of engineers are women and a mere 8% of female college students enter their freshman year intending to major in engineering, math, statistics or computer science. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center reports that Black folks account for only 9% of the industry. The number drops further for Hispanic individuals with only 7% representation in the STEM workforce.
Alena's mom, Daphne McQuarter—who the teen calls her "biggest supporter"—revealed that she recognized her daughter's STEM and academic prowess at a very young age. "She was just always smart, gifted and she was always ahead," she said. "There was just something about her that I knew I had to nurture her gift." Sharing some words of advice for fellow youngsters with big dreams, Alena urged them to ignore naysayers. "First I would say don't let anybody tell you no, because there was a lot of people who told me no, or that I couldn't do what I dreamed to do," she said. "I also had that support system. They were there when I needed them and they gave me that support to say, 'Don't give up on your dreams.'"