Amari’ Walker grew up in Pender County, NC. She is currently 17 years old and enrolled at Pender HS. She attended Elementary School at Malpass Corner and Middle Schools at West Pender Middle. She has lived in Pender county her whole life. She is passionate about cheerleading, crafting, and school and also owns her own business making cell phone and Airpod cases.
Amari’ credits her passion for science to her natural curiosity. Curiosity has been a major part of her drive ever since she was a little girl. As a child her persistent question of “why?” was often seen as being disrespectful to adults or in her being labeled as stubborn. However, she persevered, drawing on her need to go deeper and to understand the how and why behind how the world works. Amari’ noted that regardless of how people around her reacted, she was never satisfied with accepting “it is what it is” as an explanation.
Amari’ associates her experience with science and engineering fairs as being a place where her natural curiosity and drive was accepted and appreciated. She recalls meeting “people like me” and also feeling both intimidated and challenged in a way that was rewarding. In comparison to her day to day life, where she feels pressure to not like learning, she felt that at science and engineering fairs she was among people who thought and reasoned like her. Noting that, “There are a lot of people near me that don’t like school, but I really love to go to school and learn. I felt like I had to have a persona outside of my science fair life. At science Fair I feel like I could let down my guard and be myself. I met new people, was encouraged to be curious, and learned from other people’s boards.”
Amari’ is interested in human behavior and the brain, especially when it comes to children and adolescents. Her projects typically focused on an aspect of psychology or psychiatry. Her first project was a team project (3 person teach) that focused on childhood incentives and their impact on behavior. Her projects after that were done individually, the topics included whether childproof containers were really childproof, a study of the Stroop effect, and a look at the impact of moisturizers.
Amari recalls her first fair experience being intimidating. As she walked through the competition she worried that she did not belong amongst the other competitors, some of whom had stacked board displays or working robots. She remembers thinking, “This is a place for people who are going to be astronauts, not me.” However in that year she made it to the state competition and earned 3rd place competing at the level.
This experience affirmed the value of her work and also helped her to decide what she might change in order to feel more prepared in her next competition. The next time she competed she proactively engaged her board of education in looking over her project and providing feedback before the fair. She was also much more careful with what question that she selected to research. Even with her prior success, Amari’ felt pressure to be more engineering based, but had the confidence to continue with her interests, believing that this would lead to better projects.
Amari’ felt that the judging experience truly helped to refine her research across the years. Through the judging she noted, “I got a lot of feedback, they present you with questions, feedback, and recommendations that you wouldn’t even think about. This is often how I got my ideas for next year. They help you to think even further outside of the box- take your mind to a new level.”
Amari’ is currently a senior at Pender High School, with a dual enrollment in Cape Fear Community College. She is taking early childhood education and psychology classes to earn credits toward her degree. In addition to her studies, she is working at a daycare. After graduation Amari’ hopes to attend Spelman College in GA, but has also applied to NCCU and NC A&T. She is planning to major in psychology and early childhood education. Amari’s aim is to become a psychiatrist, but she would like to start out as a teacher. While teaching she plans to get her Psychology degree and then go to medical school to ultimately become a psychiatrist. She hopes to stay in a country setting, where she feels mental health is often overlooked. Her focus will be on supporting the mental health needs of adolescents in rural areas. Amari’ is grateful to those who supported her along the way, noting, “I want to thank my former 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Cynthia Rovnak, for helping me develop my love for science, she is one of the reasons where I am where I am today and also the STEM coordinator for my county, Mrs. Alissa Lee, who also made a huge impact on my science career.”
We asked Amari’ to provide 1 piece of advice for a young person who is interested in Science or Engineering. Her advice was,
“Don’t let others get in your head and try to tell you that science, science fairs, or school is not cool. If you are interested, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Just go for it, keep going- reaching for the stars. Never stop asking why- “always let your curiosity get the best of you”.