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Ben Franklin High School Celebrates Black Women in STEM

Date: March 12th, 2022

Benjamin Franklin High School Plans Night of Celebrating Black Women in STEM on March 11

NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson’s granddaughter, Katherine Sanders, to speak about her grandmother’s legacy at free event; with Black female Franklin alumnae STEM panelists and a screening of Hidden Figures

“If she says [the numbers] are good, then I’m good to go.”–John Glenn, on Katherine Johnson
In 1962, as NASA prepared for John Glenn’s orbital mission, Katherine Johnson, who graduated high school at age 14 and went on to be the first Black woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University, was an integral part of the astronaut’s preflight checklist. Glenn specifically requested that she check, by hand, the equations that had been programmed into the computer to ensure a safe flight and splashdown. With her help and mathematical skills, Glenn’s flight was a success – and a turning point in the space race between the U.S. and Russia. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Johnson passed away at the age of 101 on Feb. 24, 2020, but her reputation and contributions live on, and Benjamin Franklin High School at the Katherine Johnson campus is thrilled to announce an upcoming celebration of African American women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM. The event, held at the school’s Lakefront campus, will be Friday, March 11, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The night, co-sponsored by the school’s Student Activities Council and Black Culture Club, will begin with a panel discussion featuring three Black female alumnae who work in the STEM field: Lori Davenport ’87, who has 25 years engineering experience in space flight and commercial airlines and currently works in Houston as an ISS Active Thermal Control Systems engineer (best described as “the AC for the space station”); Dawn M. Davis ’87, the assistant director of the engineering and test directorate at the John C. Stennis Space Center, where she leads the Office of Technology Development; and Stacie Dawson ’01, the commercial test engineering analysis manager at Pratt & Whitney who holds a patent for Core Reflex Nozzle Design for Turbofan Engines.
Following their presentation, Katherine Sanders, one of Johnson’s granddaughters, will speak about her grandmother’s enduring legacy. Sanders, a local schoolteacher, is passionate about STEM education and dedicated to getting more women, especially women of color, into STEM-based careers.  The event, which is free and open to the public, will culminate in a showing of Hidden Figures, the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie in which Taraji P. Henson portrays Johnson. 
“We’re honored and delighted to have Ms. Sanders and several highly accomplished alumnae sharing their expertise with our community,” said Student Activities and Alumni Affairs Coordinator John Parauka. “It’s our hope that this presentation will help inspire the next generation of women in STEM – right here on the Katherine Johnson campus.”For more information, please contact Eve Peyton at (504) 503-0062 or  epeyton@bfhsla.orgAbout Benjamin Franklin High School Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans’ most outstanding public charter school, has been preparing students for success through academic achievement since its founding in 1957. Consistently ranked as a “top public high school in the nation” by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, and Business Week, Franklin produces numerous Presidential and National Merit Scholars each year. Ben Franklin is repeatedly named a National Blue Ribbon School, most recently in 2021. The exceptional students, faculty, and staff at Ben Franklin are the best and the brightest in New Orleans.  For more information, please visit bfhsla.org.

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