New movie 'Hidden Figures' inspires Kansas City engineering student to achieve dreams

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jan 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-11 15:12:37-05

When this civil engineering student walks down the halls of the University of Missouri - Kansas City, she doesn't see what's in view of the naked eye. Instead, Paris Hollie sees the feat of engineering that is holding the building together.

"I would be the only dot in the class," she explained, saying she was often the only black girl in her STEM classes. "I got used to it, but I knew it meant I had to work harder and try harder to succeed because I didn't have all the same privileges as other students and I was not exposed to certain things."

But becoming an engineer may not have happened for Hollie had she listened to the critics.

"Schools need to say this is an opportunity but not just for boys or girls," she said. "For example, I wasn't allowed to take shop. They were like, hey you can take home economics."

The struggle for women to break into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is the topic of a film that hit the silver screen this week.

"Hidden Figures" highlights the lives of the black women - specifically Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a mathematics genius - who helped NASA with its 1969 mission to the moon.

According to NASA, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard, the first American in Space. NASA said even after it began using electronic computers, John Glenn requested Johnson personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before his flight on Friendship 7, where he became the first American to orbit Earth. Johnson’s calculations were critical to the success of the Apollo Moon landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program, according to NASA. 

"It's a very male-dominated field, whether it be mathematics, physics, engineering, science, biology - any of that," said Hollie. "Behind every great man, there's a female who helped him get there."

A saying Hollie hopes goes by the wayside as more women like her and the women of "Hidden Figures" step out into the limelight of engineering greatness.

See the "Hidden Figures" movie trailer:



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