Engineering student Kyra-Lee Harry poses in front of a fruit stand surrounded by various produce.

“I started with the community I am most familiar with, Brooklyn. If I can work with one student or one school at a time, I can increase the chances of black students pursuing careers in engineering.”

NYU Tandon School of Engineering junior Kyra-Lee Harry has dedicated herself to being a positive influence on others and opening up opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) for young people in her native Brooklyn. Through her outreach with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at NYU, Kyra-Lee introduces engineering to students who might not otherwise think of it as a career path. In recognition of her efforts, Forbes magazine named Kyra-Lee—while only a sophomore—one of their 2018 Forbes Under 30 Scholars and Washington Square News, NYU’s student-run newspaper, dubbed her one of the “10 Most Influential Students of 2018.”

The Making of a Role Model

Kyra-Lee, who is from Crown Heights, credits her success to the many opportunities she had while growing up. In middle school, Kyra-Lee was involved in 4-H, a national organization that engages students in different types of learning, including STEM. “That was how I learned about computer science, GPS navigation systems, and just about everything tech-related,” she says. In 2018, the organization named her the National 4-H Youth in Action Civic Engagement Pillar Winner.

Through a program at Cornell University, Kyra-Lee had the chance to explore the different types of career paths available to those who pursue engineering. “I don’t know if I would have pinpointed what I wanted to study in college if I hadn’t had all of these opportunities early on,” she explains. “My mission now is to give back to my community because black students are very much underrepresented in the engineering field. I want to ensure that students in middle school and high school are given the same opportunities to explore options in STEM that I had.”

Kyra-Lee chose to attend the NYU Tandon School of Engineering when she discovered that, here, she could merge two of her interests—engineering and outreach. “Tandon has a unique program called Business and Technology Management, which combines engineering with leading and connecting others,” she says. “Now I’m learning how to look at engineering from the perspective of a manager, helping everything run smoothly by communicating between the business and tech sides.”

Mentorship in Action

After being elected precollegiate initiative chairperson for NYU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Kyra-Lee immediately got to work starting junior NSBE chapters in local high schools. In addition to founding three new chapters, she supports two existing ones in Brooklyn and Manhattan schools. “I started with the community I am most familiar with, Brooklyn,” she says. “If I can work with one student or one school at a time, I can increase the chances of black students pursuing careers in engineering.”

In order to mentor students, Kyra-Lee organizes hands-on tech workshops, leads service projects, and hosts events where they can learn about the different engineering disciplines. “I am currently leading my students in a project called ‘Future Change Makers,’” she explains. “They have to pick a sector of the world they’re interested in and find a problem to solve using STEM and their own creativity. How they solve it, whether by developing an app, drawing, or anything else they come up with, is entirely up to them. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”

Looking to the Future

So what’s next for Kyra-Lee? “I’d like to be the national precollegiate initiative chairperson for NSBE and continue making a positive difference in the world by using my platform to expose even more young people to STEM,” she says.

Cindy Nowicki is a writer and content strategist in NYU’s Office of Marketing Communications. She enjoys meeting with students to learn about their experiences and telling the stories of all the wonderful things happening at NYU. Cindy holds a BA in English from the University of Richmond and studied English literature at the University of Bristol, England. A Brooklyn native, she still discovers new things about New York City every day. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young sons.