Home STEM Career Development An Open Letter to the Class of 2016’s Black Women in STEM
An Open Letter to the Class of 2016’s Black Women in STEM

An Open Letter to the Class of 2016’s Black Women in STEM


By Jasmine Johnson

Dear Class of 2016,

As I end my undergraduate career, I can’t help but reflect on one of my favorite lyrics from Beyoncé:

There’s not a real way to live this
Just remember to stay relentless
Don’t stop running until it’s finished
It’s up to you; the rest is unwritten

The journey of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree is something that only STEM majors can understand, because it is nothing short of difficult. How many Black women in STEM do you know personally? Before college, I knew none. When you hear statistics of how only 2% of black women make up the STEM workforce or you attend a predominantly white institution and can count on one hand the number of Black women in your major, the question of if you belong in STEM has surely come to mind at one point or another. The late-night studying, failing, succeeding and failing again has been a part of your routine for so long, and you are still wondering how you made it to the last day of your senior year.

Your support system (if you even had one) was far and few, and they are the ones you should thank––if it wasn’t for them, you may have switched your major and deferred your dream of being a scientist, engineer or techie. Every single thing I talked about has happened to me, and I can bet that you identify with at least one of those struggles. I was told by a professor that being a Chemistry major, “Might not be for you.” My friends outside of STEM rarely understood my struggle of below-50% class averages, and would often ask, “Why are you doing this to yourself?”  

To be honest, there were times I didn’t have an answer to that question. The constant back and forth of self doubt and the “I-got-this” mentality left me uncertain of what my actual emotion was. You may call it a miracle, but it was most certainly destiny, because we ALL managed to get the job done!

As graduation season wraps up, you can proudly say you earned your degree in STEM as a Black woman. You are part of changing the narrative of what Black girls can do simply by achieving what YOU set your mind to no matter the circumstances and our underrepresentation in STEM.

When they call your name and you walk across that stage, I want you to think of yourself as a pioneer in your field, and to exude all the confidence and #BlackGirlMagic you’ve curated along this journey.

YOU are an inspiration to a young Black girl who didn’t even know that being a scientist was a thing.

YOU are testament that when life gives you lemons, it is possible to make some really bomb lemonade.

YOU remained relentless and didn’t stop running until the race was finished; what makes it even more beautiful is that the best is yet to come.

Congrats to this year’s graduating class of Black women STEM majors, WE did our thing!


Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
All rights reserved. The content above or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of #VanguardSTEM except for the use of brief quotations, with attribution, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to #VanguardSTEM, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at hello@vanguardstem.com


  1. Yes we did! I feel like graduation still hasn’t hit me yet even though I graduated exactly 4 weeks ago. Reading pieces like this definitely makes it real to me and encourages me to remember how far I’ve come. How far we’ve all come. Congratulations beautiful people.


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