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Northern Virginia Community College students visit U.S. Capitol for private viewing of “Hidden Figures”

Provided by Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA)

WISE members stand outside of the Congressional Auditorium of the United States Capitol Visitor Center.

Northern Virginia Community College student mentoring and leadership programs, Women in Search of Excellence (WISE) and MAN UP attended a private screening of the film Hidden Figures on Feb. 15, hosted by United States Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Sherrod Brown and Representative Bobby Scott at the United States Capitol.

Over 200 individuals from community groups, student and non-profit organizations across the region were selected to view the three-time Academy Award nominated film in the Congressional Auditorium of the United States Capitol Visitor Center, alongside Margot Lee Shetterly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race; Director and Screenwriter of Hidden Figures Theodore Melfi; 21st Century Fox Vice President of Government Relations Kathleen Ramsey and several other government officials. The event, Hidden Figures in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), engaged young men and women to explore a wide variety of economic opportunities in STEM careers. Virginia Senators Warner and Kaine emphasized the importance of continuously “breaking barriers” for “students in their home state as well as across the nation who “may feel math and science is not for them, but may change their perceptions after viewing the film.”

“Nearly 60 years ago, these three women of color (Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan), had to break through both sexism and racism to show that their innate intelligence could overcome any barrier or burden,” Warner said. “Because of their work, John Glenn managed to be an astronaut and most importantly to come home safely. I hope this story of three great Americans and Virginians will be an inspiration to young people all across our country, that there is no goal you can’t achieve if you work hard and stay true to your dreams.”

A vast majority of student members from the WISE and MAN UP organizations at NOVA’s Woodbridge Campus are currently pursuing an associate’s degree in cybersecurity and/or information technology. WISE, an organization that empowers women through professional and academic enrichment, while improving self-esteem and self-advocacy, assists students with pursing academic, personal and career goals. MAN UP, a mentoring and leadership development program for minority men, was developed in 2013 to increase retention, graduation rates and the academic performance of NOVA students. Richmond Hill, MAN UP founder and program coordinator, said receiving an invitation to attend the private screening introduced a new and exciting experience for students.

“This was an opportunity for our students in the MAN UP and WISE programs to be a part of a time in history,” said Hill. “Our NOVA students were very excited to be in the same room as so many government officials and individuals who contributed to the film. This unique and fortunate experience has given each student a sense of pride to be a part of this amazing event. For some of them, this was their very first time attending a private screening and visiting the Capitol.”

Hidden Figures stars renowned actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as three African-American female mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, who made immeasurable contributions in aeronautics and astronautics research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center in the 1960s, while enduring racial segregation and gender discrimination in Hampton, Va. The families of Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan also attended the film screening.

“After viewing Hidden Figures, I saw so many emotions from our WISE mentees – clapping, yelling, crying and laughing that left me inspired,” Tykesha R. Myrick, WISE founder and program leader said. “The overarching theme we collectively have from this extraordinary film and unique experience is nothing is impossible, and someone has to be the first.”

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