By Isabel Velazquez (class of 2019)
This week, a group of 25 girls from Clemente went on a field trip to a private screening of the movie Hidden Figures. The film, which is based on true events, tells the story of three very influential African-American women who made history and helped shape the future of aeronautical engineering. Afterward, we participated in a panel discussion where we had the opportunity to speak with three women in CPS who are also leaders in science and computer technology. This experience was inspirational on different levels, as many of us who attended aspire to pursue careers in STEM and other typically male-dominant professions.
The main characters, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan worked at NASA and had to overcome several obstacles in their jobs due to their race and gender. The three women worked as “computers” to help with the United States’ first launch into outer space. But, it wasn’t at all easy. They endured racism from their superiors, even to the point of being passed over for well-deserved promotions. They were so segregated that they worked in a completely different building for “Colored” people only, on the other side of the NASA campus, which was two miles away from the main building. Even though Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy were some of the best in their field, their White, male counterparts didn’t believe that women were capable of handling all the math, science, and engineering that had to be done. But they proved everyone wrong and succeeded by helping to engineer the successful launch of pilot John Glenn into outer space.
The students really enjoyed the message of the movie. We found it very inspiring and hopeful. Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy never gave up, despite all the racism they faced and how difficult people made the job for them. We found the way Katherine was treated to be unfair. She was the only African-American woman working on the math to launch the rocket ship in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, but she didn’t receive the credit she deserved until much later. She was seen as less worthy because she was only there to do the mathematical equations, but she proved to be a much more valuable asset to the team. Literally against all odds, Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy never let a single person bring them down or get in the way of their dreams.
I would recommend the movie because it teaches you overall that if there’s a will, there’s a way. This means that if you want something bad enough, then there is always a way to achieve it. The movie is inspiring and demonstrates that it’s not always easy to achieve your goals, but you have to be resilient, persistent, and patient to get there.