NAF Junior at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design Defies the Odds

Tiyah Thompson
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June 3, 2016

I’m Tiyah Thompson, a junior at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in East Hartford, Connecticut.

I could stand here and tell you the gritty details of my life. Growing up unsure of what the future holds and yearning for strong role models who looked like me.

I could tell you how the odds are stacked against me, a female of color whose parents lack a college education. I could tell you how the Department of Education predicts that I am more likely to drop out of high school.

I could tell you that statistically speaking, as a young black woman, I am even more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than my peers.

But I refuse to let my background as an underserved student define me. Instead, it inspires me to rise above the clichés. My environment and these statistics motivated me. My story is about defying the odds. And it’s about how NAF helped me do it.

I believe that each one of us has a destiny, and for me, it is being a student at the Pathways Academy of Technology and Design. Being a part of NAF has pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me opportunities I would never have experienced in a traditional high school.

If I look familiar to you, it is because this is the third time I have been invited to attend the NAF Benefit. In fact, it was at this event two years ago that I presented the first award-winning app I developed called SmartRoom, which brings smart technology to your hotel room when you travel.

Last year, I worked with a classmate to develop another successful app, this time as part of the Lenovo Scholar Network, a partnership between NAF, Lenovo, and MIT. Our app, Savant, makes traditional textbooks mobile, and it was selected as one of five winners in the 2015 national app development competition.

Last summer I was invited to present Savant at NAF’s annual conference, but unfortunately, I had another commitment…

to Harvard.

I was accepted into Harvard’s Secondary Summer Program with high school students from all around the world. Out of necessity and in the spirit of entrepreneurship, I financed my tuition by starting a Go Fund Me webpage. My friends couldn’t believe I was going Harvard for college credits at the tender age of 16. Meeting new people and trying new things have become part of my character.

Besides meeting international students at Harvard, Pathways introduced me to many successful people outside the walls of my classroom. Armed with the confidence I honed in my NAF academy, I went to public events where I met other young entrepreneurs and successful women in business, technology and engineering.

Inspired by NAF and previous networking events, I entered the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Business Plan competition. My business concept, STEM Ball, is a camp that empowers young urban females to learn about STEM concepts by relating them to basketball.

With all these experiences under my belt, I began taking on leadership roles in my academy. Our school administration looks to me as a valued student ambassador and reliable professional to do things like give school tours, help host events like career day, and speak in front of the student body. I even helped organize a Lenovo hackathon to recruit middle school girls to NAF.

My academy has a strong internship program, and I am proud to share that I have accepted an offer to intern at Travelers this summer. My NAF academy began preparing me for an interview from my very first day, and the interview process was exactly what I expected. Through mock interviews, constantly rewriting or updating my resume, and speaking to new people about my experiences, I was ready to walk into my interview equipped with excitement and confidence. I now have a chance to work in IT at a NAF partner company.

I would not be standing here without the people who helped me along the way. I’d like to extend my thanks to Karen Ondrick from Lenovo. Ever since she and my teacher signed a contract on a napkin to create the hackathon, she has been an incredible source of support. I’d also like to give special thanks to John Griffin, my business teacher and mentor, for encouraging me to pursue my goals. And lastly, I’d like to thank NAF, which has transformed me into someone ready to take the world by storm and made my educational experience richer than I ever could have imagined. Because of NAF, I know my options are truly endless.

Now, it is my great pleasure to present this year’s “Corporate Citizen Award” to tonight’s honorees, Joe Tucci and EMC. NAF is proud to showcase Joe’s invaluable leadership on NAF’s Board of Directors, as well as EMC’s efforts to significantly boost the number of college graduates in STEM fields and build a pipeline of next generation employees. Please give a warm welcome to NAF Board Member and Chairman and CEO of EMC, Joe Tucci!

It’s the Season of Gratitude!

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