NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A local high school student got the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the prestigious Disney Dreamers Academy.
Maury High School sophomore Azaria Cherry was selected out of thousands of students who applied across the country for the program which is sponsored by Steve Harvey and Essence magazine.
“I was extremely nervous because there are so many people who apply and only 100 are accepted. I’m extremely proud to be 100 and to be part of the 100 that was accepted,” Cherry told 10 On Your Side’s Kara Dixon before she traveled to Florida for the academy.
While she previously knew about the program, it was another participant that encouraged the young entrepreneur to apply.
Cherry started the non-profit Z.Inc Girls, which educates girls in urban settings about STEM, helping her earn her spot in the academy.
“It’s something I’ve constantly been into and it was constantly ‘You can do it! You can do it!’ When it changed, it was like what do I do now? It’s just been one of my passions and something I’ve been in love with.”
“I’ve always loved it. Since I was this big, I’ve always been messing with stuff and figuring out how does this work and how does this go like this?” she said.
What changed for Cherry was the school she was attending and lack of exposure to STEM.
“I transferred to Ruffner Academy for the Young Scholars program. It was just a completely different environment for me. It was a hard transition,” she said. “While I was there, I was like ‘oh my gosh, no one likes STEM anymore. There are no girls here that like STEM’ and I realized all my STEM opportunities just vanished.”
So, she invented Z.Inc Girls. At first, it was hard to get people to invite her to speak about STEM but eventually, she was invited to speak to schools and spread the message about the importance of the program.
Cherry says she loves speaking with the girls and talks with them about furthering their education, vision boards, and self-care talks that her mother, who is a social worker, conducts.
But being able to show them how STEM is prevalent in their lives is what she loves most about the foundation.
“I’m exposing them to something they might not have realized before. It’s really interesting to see their faces light up when they understand and say ‘Oh! That’s why my phone does that! Oh! That’s why my lipgloss looks the way it looks!’ It’s pretty amazing to see how it all adds up,” Cherry said.
Although the Disney Dreamers Academy was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak, Cherry still tried to make the most out of her trip by meeting celebrities and making new friends that inspire.
And, she has her own inspiration to share with those who are chasing their own dreams.
“Never stop trying and always go for it. You never know what could happen. You could get 100 ‘no’s’ and one ‘yes,’ and that one yes could change your life. So, keep going,” she said.
Cherry says she wants to be a pediatric emergency physician and would like to attend either Spelman College, Howard University or Hampton University.
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