We at Oak Hill Academy count ourselves lucky that our boarding school is situated on 240 acres in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. But we are equally lucky to be only a few hours from a number of colleges and universities, large and small. As part of our college prep boarding school identity, we regularly take interested students to educational, cultural, and athletic events on college campuses across our region, including Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Emory and Henry College, Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina, Elon University and University of Tennessee.
Oak Hill students made a trip to Winston-Salem, NC, this week to hear author Margot Shetterly speak about how and why she wrote the bestselling book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. The book was the basis for the 2016 Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures.
OHA librarian Tiffany Bronson and math/science teacher Gary Duranko sponsored the trip to the speaking event, which was part of Wake Forest University’s “Wake Project: Exploring Difference and Embracing Diversity.” Ms. Bronson remarked that WFU’s Wait Chapel was filled to capacity for the speech, and provided an impressive backdrop for Ms. Shetterly’s words. She learned that while women comprise less than 20% of college engineering majors in the US, 40% of Wake Forest’s engineering majors are female. Ms. Bronson commented that “It was a wonderful night.”
Mr. Duranko related how Ms. Shetterly was working on Wall Street when she realized she had this great story right in her own backyard–her father had worked for NASA and had seen the black women mathematicians who became the central “Hidden Figures” in his daughter’s book. The author spent years researching the story, finding that black newspapers were a rich source of information about this often overlooked piece of history. Mr. Duranko said Ms. Shetterly enjoyed this process so much that she is writing another book about the newspaper companies themselves. Mr. Duranko said, “She expressed that these stories should be added to the black history books–and I agree!”
Junior OHA student Bynn P. said the trip was “a ton of fun! The speech was very thought-provoking and made me appreciate how far we’ve come, and made me optimistic about what we will achieve in the future. The campus was beautiful and the trip was a very pleasant experience!”
To read more about Ms. Shetterly’s speech, see the Winston-Salem Journal‘s article HERE. Photo of Ms. Shetterly by Andrew Dye/Journal. Thank you to Ms. Bronson for the other trip photos.