Name of Interviewee #1: Kiara Whittle
Kiara Whittle is a production chemist working with COVID-19 currently producing tests and kits for others.
Name of Interviewee #2: Kyeisha White
Kyeisha White is a civil rights attorney who focuses on multiple topics such as education justice, abolition work, and voter protection
Tell us about how and why you entered your career
Kiara knew Nitiya a couple of years ago which brought her to be a coach for Seeds of Fortune. When she was young, there was a new parent breakfast for everyone to socialize and get to know each other. Kiara’s mother was actually complaining about the science curriculum and how it was not challenging enough. Kiara fell in love with chemistry class and knew she wanted to focus on chemistry as a career. After majoring in chemistry in college, she became a production chemist that works in toxicology and pharmacology shortly after. This inspired me to take as many classes as I can to gain knowledge of different interesting topics which may allow me to get different perspectives and choose what I would like to do in my future career.
Kyeisha was inspired to become a Civil Rights Attorney as a result of her activism with Dream Defenders following the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Kyeisha wants to be an advocate so now works towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline. This includes how schools are structured, the use of metal detectors and random uses and funneling students into the criminal justice system in black and brown communities. With this constant surveillance, the school system polices students’ actions. Kids go to school to learn, not to be searched or policied which continuously harms these communities. Due to history, students don’t feel comfortable with officers in our school but we are constantly surrounded by armed police. Students are met with police violence for minor things such as dress code or simple actions that can be settled by school aid. This creates a tense environment with an unsettling feeling for everyone. Kyeisha hopes to work towards justice for our school systems in her career. This truly inspired me because there are multiple cases like this from my city, The Bronx, but it is not popularized on media and news. Cases like this should be shown in media to get an uprise so there can be real change.
What skills have you found vital to your job?
As a production chemist, Kiara believes patience and discipline are vital skills in this job. There will be tests and challenges but you must always stay true to yourself. I completely agree as these are skills that make one successful.
Kyeisha believes that being extroverted or a people’s person is a great skill to have along with being able to empathize as Kyeisha does her job for the communities of brown and black people. Communication skills and presentation skills come in handy. Writing and speaking skills to articulate ideas and present ideas are also vital skills to have. To build up these skills, some ideas are to take classes that include logical thinking or to read more books. There are great skills to keep in mind; as a highschooler, I have time to develop these skills in various programs such as seeds of fortune and school.
What is your favorite part about your career (current or past)?
Kiara is learning about herself and her interests during this time period. She is studying COVID-19 and other infectious diseases from a chemical standpoint. She works on vaccine production and creating kits for our communities. She loved her experience in a toxicology lab as she studies pharmacology and toxicology.
Was there a career setback you faced which you later realized was an advantage?
Kiara recognizes that being a woman, being a black woman and a black woman in stem is a setback due to our system. However, even though, Kiara was a minority, she pushed through and chose to see these setbacks in a positive light; She recognized that people like to see different faces and contribute different ideas from different perspectives. As an immigrant woman in stem, it is great to see opportunities and programs for underprivileged high school students to help them succeed.
What is some advice you would offer to someone who is interested in your work?
Kiara would advise anyone interested in the stem field to go for this career path. She also says to challenge yourself, work hard, and stay true to yourself. She also says to not let others discourse you and influence your path. This is advice that I will remember for the future.
Kyeisha advises students to take advantage of the opportunities and resources around them such as shadowing people, research, and internships. This allows students to know for sure they want to go into this career by experience. This is great advice and I will remember Kyeisha’s words for the future; I plan to engage myself in multiple activities and opportunities around me to know all my options and see what I’m interested in.
What should they major in?
Kiara says to major in any science as even though she majored in chemistry, she worked with people with various scientific backgrounds such as biology, physics, forensics, and toxicology. All sciences go hand in hand. This was also surprising to me as to be a production chemist, I assumed one would have to major in specifically in chemistry.
Kyeisha says students can really major in anything, even nursing, to get into law. Good grades and passion are key. This was surprising to me as I never knew this before.
What classes should they take?
Kiara says you will need your core science classes: biology, chemistry, and physics. Math classes will also be needed; For chemistry, you will need up to calculus 3 and differential equations. If you are interested in the pre-med track, you are also required to take organic chemistry.
Kyeisha says students should take classes that will help them in the long run. For law, they should take writing classes to practice their writing skills for law school as writing is a vital skill. Classes that involve logic or logical thinking are worth taking as this challenges the mind and allows students to grow.
Books people should read
Kiara says you will become best friends with all your textbooks. She recommends khan academy for math and science classes for a further breakdown of the material taught in class.
Kyiesha says the type of books vary within careers and even the type of lawyer. She recommends books based on abolition, racial justice, and books written by Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander. This was a great idea as this gave me more books to add to my summer reading!