She sits at the table during dinner, discouraged and angry. She is over being disrespected and feeling out of place. She goes to her mom to bring her out of this state of mind, her mom reminds her that this is life and things don’t come easy. Her dad reminds her that he went through the same discrimination while earning three masters degrees and she just needs to keep working hard.
This is what motivates senior Amia Combs to continue striving towards a career in the profession of cyber security analysis. However, this wasn’t always Combs’ academic goal.
Originally she, like many other students at West, was set on the engineering path. Combs walked into many computer science classes noticing two things: she was usually the only girl and almost always the only black person.
“People are always underestimating my skills and it is harder to prove a point, it gets to me and sometimes I want to quit,” Combs said.
In addition to being undermined by her peers, she feels some teachers at West have encouraged this as well as turned a blind eye to the exclusion that is taking place.
“None of the boys ever wanted to work with me, on top of the teacher supporting it and not helping me through it. [Engineering] was the worse class of my life and after that I realized I didn’t want to do engineering anymore,” Combs said.
But Combs has learned from her mom that she has to grow up now. Combs’ mom has helped her through a lot while she is trying to find her career.
“She is a big part in my life, she gets on my nerves but she pushes me to my full potential. Some kids can’t go talk to their parents or their parents don’t push them and I am thankful I have a mom like that because otherwise I probably would have given up” Combs said.
Other than her mom, Combs has been encouraged by her teachers Jason Franzenburg and Doyle Massey.
“Amia is really organized, detail oriented, focused and passionate. I think she will do well regardless of her race and gender. It is going to be difficult but any post secondary education is. It is supposed to be challenging but if she sets her mind to it and it is something she is passionate about she will do very well,” Franzenburg said.
Combs plans to attend Clark University, a historically black university in Atlanta, Georgia, in hopes of studying her field in a more diverse setting.
“Everyone says they will miss high school but I don’t think I will because I wasn’t really involved and I didn’t really have best friends. College will be a fresh start and I feel like there is a lack of diversity here at West and some faculty do not see the potential in black kids,” Combs said.
Combs said West has supplied her with quality and challenging classes through the INSPIRE program. The downside to taking these harder classes for her was the sacrifice she had to make with her GPA. At the end of the day she believes the hard work is worth not having a perfect GPA if the class prepares her for college.
“These hard course look good on my transcript and will tell the story of why my GPA isn’t a 4.0,” Combs said.
Massey believes that Combs is more than prepared for whatever her future brings and hopes for the best for her.
“I enjoyed having her in class, she worked hard and didn’t give up. She needs to believe in herself more because she is really smart and will be successful at whatever she sets her mind to,” Massey said.
Combs has dealt wrestled with her struggle while on her the trip for her dream job and hopes any black female going into computer science does the same and doesn’t get discouraged.
“Never give up, just keep trying even though things won’t come as easy for you as others,” Combs said.
This story was originally published on WHS Today on October 29, 2018.