Global Health Connections International is a Raleigh nonprofit lead by the former director of sales at the Dow Chemical Company, Rick Copeland , who attended the speech. The nonprofit fosters an interest in STEM among minority students.
“A lot of black and Latino kids are intimidated of pursuing a STEM career, and we try to show them that STEM is something that is involved in their everyday life and that it isn’t something to be scared of,” Copeland said.
Rumay Alexander ,the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the nursing school, echoed many of Copeland’s sentiments to the middle schoolers in her introduction of Harris.
“You are going to hear about what it takes to be a scientist — to be successful — and oftentimes people think success is different because you are a minority,” Alexander said. “So today we want to show you a successful scientist who looks like you.”
Harris spoke about the importance of an education, alluding to the opportunities given to those with good degrees.
“You can be wealthy with an education, and wealth is more than just money; it is family, it is having someone to love, it is having the ability to do what you want to do,” Harris said.
Harris amazed the students with a description of what space does to the body, telling them about how zero gravity takes a toll on the skeletal and muscular system.
“I described in the Mayo Medical Journal that mine and my crewmates’ legs looked like chicken legs,” Harris said.
After finishing his powerpoint, Harris opened the floor up to the students and answered questions ranging from the length of time that a person can survive in space to what the Northern Lights look like from outer space.
Harris wanted students to take away a greater appreciation for STEM education, specifically for minority children.
“In this country where technology is driving everything we do, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure in all communities that our kids are educated in math and science,” Harris said.