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The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

The Student-Run News Site of Carnegie Vanguard High School

Upstream News

Maisha Turner: from rejecting rejection to inspiring CVHS students in STEM

Turner and her husband at their wedding in 2003
Maisha Turner
Turner and her husband at their wedding in 2003

If Maisha Turner’s life was a Free Body Diagram, her family would be the center of mass, with outside forces from every angle. Her life would have a positive magnitude of acceleration, but with an ever-changing direction.

From the start, Turner has been destined for an unpredictable and unconventional path.

Having always excelled in math and science, twelfth-grade Turner didn’t necessarily have a passion for the two subjects, but was encouraged into engineering by those around her.

At the time, her mother was a technician for Shell, a company Turner would eventually end up working with.

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“She started off as a clerk and then worked her way up to be a technician which was a huge, huge accomplishment for her because they didn’t they didn’t let people make that jump her degrees in psychology and you had to have a degree in engineering to be an engineer. And so technician was kind of this little island that’s kind of between the assistants and clerks and secretaries and the engineers and so very, very, very few people get to jump onto that island. And she was able to do that,” said Turner.

Reassured by her mother’s position in the STEM field, Turner graduated from the historically black McDonogh 35 Senior High School in 1991, and was off to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, more commonly known as MIT. The school is and was an extremely selective, private institution with a current acceptance rate of 4.1% At the time, however, all she considered was its status as the best engineering school in the country.

“I didn’t really spend a whole lot of time soul searching and whatnot,” Turner says.

Her four years of undergraduate schooling passed quickly, and after a three-and-a-half month study trip to Tanzania at the end of her senior year, Turner graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. After taking a brief gap year for a job at Shell, she dreamed of obtaining her masters from UC Berkeley, but that didn’t go as planned.

“ I applied twice- I wanted so badly to go to Berkeley. Got rejected both times, which is not surprising because I didn’t really change anything academically. I worked for a year and a half in between but nothing academically. There was nothing different on the application. So of course they told me no, but Clemson accepted me.” said Turner.

Even if Clemson wasn’t her first choice, she advises students to trust the process regardless of acceptance, rejection, or deferral. For her, it worked out perfectly.

“”Focus on where you get in, not where you didn’t. Sometimes, the powers that be will put you on the path that you need to be on,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone to Clemson, I wouldn’t have met my husband.”

Mr. Turner, her husband, holds an important place in Turner’s life. In fact, one of the things she loves most is interacting with her family, whether it be watching one of her tenth-grade son’s various sporting events, or hours-long spontaneous late-night calls with her daughter, who’s currently attending UT Austin.

“[Just] talking about my kids and my husband is really one of my favorite things,” Turner said.

Her close connection with her children and husband is a testament to her devotion to nurturing relationships, both within her family and the school community.

Today, as an educator at CVHS, Turner draws motivation from those “aha” moments when students grasp complex concepts. She finds hope in her students’ willingness to learn, a quality that fuels her passion for teaching.

“Most of the time, students are trying, and I appreciate that. I like that,” Turner said.

Turner’s education and career has not been without its challenges. The intersectionality of being a woman and being black in the engineering world has left her discouraged in the past. But, she channeled her experiences into a driving force for change, aiming to inspire her students.

“I want to inspire little Maisha Turners to get into science. I want to prove that women can do engineering, that black people can do engineering, and that we can all do engineering.” said Turner.

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About the Contributors
Natalia Nguyen, Copy Editor
Natalia Nguyen is a junior at CVHS. She's incredibly dedicated to solitaire and Candy Crush Saga, two of her current favorite pastimes. She loves to read memoirs and historical fiction, and is constantly updating her Goodreads. Her favorite part of Upstream News is being able to meet and interview new people.
Cindy Cui, Opinion-Editorial Editor
Cindy Cui is a senior at CVHS. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for her friends and family. On the weekends, she also enjoys playing tennis at night and trying new coffee shops around Houston. Her favorite coffee shop is Grinders! Some other things she enjoys doing are shopping for makeup and collecting keychains. 
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    Kevin PhamDec 4, 2023 at 1:53 pm

    I thought that the lead was so incredibly creative!

    Reply