Marlena Jackson, Nexegene Girls founder

Marlena Jackson is the founder of NexGeneGirls, and a scientist at one of the world’s leading biotech organizations. NexGeneGirls was started as a grassroots organization committed to empowering young women of color from under-represented communities to see themselves in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) professions at a very early age by introducing them to fun hands-on science experiments taught by female STEM professionals from diverse backgrounds.

She is motivated to work in the sciences because of the area she grew up in, Bayview Hunterspoint of San Francisco. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Southeast sector community, she understands the challenges and roadblocks faced by many women of color. This community, although rich in great cultural history has been plagued with environmental racism for over 30 years. Bayview Hunterspoint has some of the highest cancer and asthma rates in the Bay Area due to the toxic waste from the now closed PG&E plant and old Navy shipyard. A family that has suffered a great deal from both brain and breast cancer led her to chose the path of science so that she may affect change in her community. She also wants girls to embrace challenges and help them to develop foundational skills in science, leadership, and innovation practices so that they are able to see themselves as future STEM leaders.

She decided to launch NexGeneGirls as a way to inspire young girls who live in marginalized communities, such as the one she grew up in, to pursue careers in STEM. Girls are smart, creative thinkers and multi-taskers so it’s important that instead of handing girls barbies and makeup we give them chemistry sets and computers so they can put their imaginations and attentive hands to use in a way that will have positive community and global impact. NexGeneGirls is the catalyst that will allow girls to view themselves as the next generation of leaders and innovators of the future.

At the end of the day our girls walk away knowing that a scientist looks like them!