Winning Essay by A'Keeriyanna J. from Mississippi
Many people who like math would say that mathematicians like Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Pascal were great inspirations, but unlike those people, I would say that another very special and unique mathematician inspires me. Katherine G. Johnson, an African American female mathematician, is an inspiring figure to me because she broke barriers and exceeded unforeseen heights by being the human calculator behind our nation’s success in putting the first American into space. As a person who loves mathematics, I would suggest that Katherine Johnson is the perfect example of a person who knows the numbers.
 Katherine G. Johnson was born on August 26, 1918 in West Virginia. As a child, she was extremely smart. She was so smart that she completed the eighth grade by age ten. Because her town did not have a high school for African Americans, her family had to move from their home and to another town so Katherine will have an opportunity to further her education. After graduating high school, Mrs. Katherine Johnson continued her education at West Virginia State University and graduated at age eighteen with a degree in mathematics. She wanted to further her education, and because of this desire, she became one of the three students to desegregate West Virginia State University’s graduate school. This was only the beginning of the remarkable things that this mathematician accomplished.
 Katherine G. Johnson worked as a computer for NASA for years before she was given the opportunity to exercise her brilliant intelligence. After being a computer for a few years, she was selected to be among the team responsible for putting the first American into space and returning him back to Earth. She used her knowledge in math and physics to calculate space flight. In this, she was successful because her calculations were always accurate. Her accurate calculations made Alan Shepard’s journey to space a success. She also used her mathematic skills to successfully send John Glenn into orbit around Earth, yet her accuracy in calculations and her intelligence did not stop here. Katherine Johnson also was successful in the Apollo 11 mission, which entitled America to be the first to put a man on the moon. Her amazing work and calculations made it hard for her not to be respected as an African American mathematician.
 I am truly inspired by Katherine Johnson because she used the best gift anyone can have, her intelligence. Although she faced obstacles while getting her education, she was successful in her career. She has inspired me because, at the time, she beat the odds of women being powerful and successful in mathematics and space science. She is apart of the country’s history and black history. I aspire to have courage like her. I do not plan to put a man into space, but I do plan to use my intelligence and shoot for the stars like Katherine G. Johnson   

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