This 13-year-old girl from Texas just became the youngest black person ever to get accepted into medical school.
In June, Alena Analeigh Wicker got into the University of Alabama‘s Heersink School of Medicine class of 2024. She is over 10 years younger than the typical medical student.
Alena’s acceptance comes as she continues to work through her degrees in the biological sciences at Oakwood University and Arizona State University. She does most of her coursework online.
“You’re not too young to do anything,” Alena told The Washington Post. “I feel like I have proven to myself that I can do anything that I put my heart and mind to.”
Alena also founded the organization Brown STEM Girl, which aims to help girls of color explore careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“We’re showing the world that there’s other girls out there that are just like me, and they deserve an opportunity and a chance,” she said of the program.
To date, Brown STEM Girl has 460 members and a waitlist of around 2,000 girls. It connects members with mentors, gives financial scholarships, and provides academic resources.
However, it’s unknown if Alena will use those scholarships to pay for her medical school tuition and fees, which cost over $400,000 at the University of Alabama.
Alena was adopted by Daphne McQuarter, who said she knew her daughter was special as early as three years old.
“Alena was gifted. It was just how she did things and how advanced she was. She was reading chapter books,” she explained.
She finished her schoolwork in a breeze, and was so intelligent in her younger years that Daphne had to homeschool her to shield her from the bullying of other kids, who called her names like “smarty pants.”
Alena returned to school by the fifth grade, but instead of studying what the regular 10-year-old would, she worked on an advanced high school curriculum. But even that was too simple for her.
“I was bored,” she recalled. “The high school work was so easy for me that I ended up graduating from high school at 12 years old.”
Alena also became the youngest intern at NASA last summer, back when she thought she wanted to pursue engineering.
Clayton Turner, the director of NASA’s Langley Research Center, hired the young girl after reading a news story about her in which she said that she dreamed of working for the institution.
“Alena is one of those exceptional intellects,” he said. “What’s in her is wanting to help others, wanting to lift up others.”
However, Alena decided to move away from engineering after just one class on the subject. She was then inspired to shift her focus to medicine after taking a trip to Jordan with Brown STEM Girl.
“It actually took one class in engineering, for me to say this is kind of not where I wanted to go,” she told Ebony. “I think viral immunology really came from my passion for volunteering and going out there engaging with the world.”
Alena wasted no time. She dropped a class, changed her major, and when she took her first biological class, she knew right away that is what she was supposed to be doing.
“What I want from healthcare is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for these viruses,” she added.
Alena is due to complete her undergraduate degrees in spring 2024, and she will start medical school that fall. She hopes that by 18, she will be a doctor.
When she received her acceptance from the University of Alabama, she took to Instagram to share the good news and thank her mother.
“A little black girl adopted from Fontana California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams. Mama, I made it. I couldn’t have done it without you,” she wrote.
“You gave me every opportunity possible to be successful,” she continued in the post. “You cheered me on, wiped my tears, gave me oreos when I needed comfort, you never allowed me to settle, disciplined me when I needed. You are the best mother a kid could ever ask for.”
With a lot going on in her life, other people have said that Alena might be missing out on her childhood. But the prodigy herself said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I don’t think I’m missing any part of my childhood. I get a childhood, and it’s amazing,” she said.
When she’s not studying, Alena loves building Legos, singing, cooking, going to arcades with her friends, and playing soccer.
She also prides herself on being disciplined and having good time management skills.
Congratulations on your latest milestone, Alena!