George Washington grad defies the odds to pursue career in science

By Berny Morson
Rocky Mountain News staff writer

Even as a child, Monique Terry tried to fix things.

"Whenever we get new appliances or something like VCRs, my parents would have me hook up the cables," says Terry, 17. "A lot of times I didn't read the instructions. I'd just plug the cord in where it looked like it would fit, and I would try to run it, and if it didn't run, I'd try something new."

Terry graduates Monday [yesterday..congrats Monique!-CH] from Denver's George Washington High School, where she was in a widely respected computer program. She will develop her interest in technology at Iowa State University.

She wants to be a chemical engineer.

The choice is unusual for a black student. Researchers say that black youngsters often shy away from the sciences and are sorely in demand in lucrative careers such as engineering and science fields.

"It has a lot to do with stereotyping," Terry says in a deliberative tone. "A lot of times, people discourage minority students from succeeding at certain things because they believe the stereotypes that are portrayed of black people."

It's not only whites people who discourage minorities, she says. Blacks discourage each other.

"A lot of times, my peers would say, 'you're a nerd,'" she says. "To fit in, I tried not to show what I really can achieve."

As a result, her grades suffered in middle school.

"I had a very bad self-esteem problem for awhile," she says. "I realized it was because I was listening to what these people said."

Her parents were the main factor in overcoming the problem.

"They basically said, 'Hey, when you grow up, they'll want to be what you are, so don't let yourself stoop to their level, don't believe everything you hear,'" Monique says. "I was on my way to being a successful person, and they were missing the point of what school is all about."

Monique's father, James Terry, is a retired Army sergeant. Her Mother, Beverly Terry, is a medical technician at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center.

They enrolled Monique in an after-school program for young scientists. They also enrolled her in lessons on piano, harp and violin.

She still plays the piano. She likes classical music, jazz and show tunes.

Eventually, Monique developed friends[hips] with people who have interests similar to her own. She was in two vocal ensembles and the Spanish club.

But she understands why some youngsters lower their aspirations instead of succeeding.

"When people begin to say things to you on a daily basis, it begins to hurt," she says.

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