Women in Science in Engineering (WiSE) awarded research funds to twelve student researchers through its 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Support Program. The program seeks to promote research participation among women in STEM fields, with awards supplementing students’ existing grants to…
Student Spotlight—Charity Luster ’19
Charity Luster ’19 loves proving doubters wrong—and she’s very good at it. She is the president of the Syracuse chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and works to open doors and encourage underrepresented groups to enter STEM education fields.
As she prepares for graduation, Luster shares her own story of overcoming obstacles to succeed and thrive at Syracuse University.
“I was sixteen when I dropped out of high school,” Luster says. “That process of me trying to reclaim myself came in the form of me dropping out and deciding to going to Jobcorp for the first time. And Jobcorp actually introduced me to technology, because when I initially went to Jobcorp I got my G.E.D. in two weeks. I did their business technology program. When I made the decision to start to go into tech, I started to realize that OK—I’m really good at this.
“I have always been somebody who gets really motivated by people who doubt me so people who would say, ‘That is such a difficult thing, what makes you different from everybody else that you can do that?’ It just was a moment that clicked in my mind where I said I need to do better and I need to be better. So that moment is what makes me different from everybody else—even though I am still that Charity, but that moment made me realize of course I can move past this, I can move forward, I can pursue what I love.
“After leaving Jobcorp, I ended up going to Northern Maine Community College. So I started off doing computer electronics and moved into computer and network technology, and that’s where I got all my certifications from.
“When I graduated from Northern Maine, I only applied to one school, and it was Syracuse University. I believe if things are meant to be, they will happen. And when I saw the Syracuse University campus, I thought it was beautiful. I went in to check my email and there it was saying I was accepted, and I remember calling my grandmother and just crying. It makes me emotional now.
“The motto—knowledge crowns those who seek her—that stood out to me because I understood that was a representation of my life at that point. If I didn’t go out and seek help, If I didn’t go out and seek a way to better myself, if I didn’t go out and seek a new major that nobody told me I could do, then I wouldn’t have the knowledge I had at that point and the knowledge I have today. I wanted to go further my education with computer and network technology, security, cybersecurity, all that stuff, but I also wanted to learn about data structures and go into depth, do some more coding language and learn more.”
“Being a non-traditional student helped me in a lot of different ways, because I came in understanding what I wanted from the school. I ended up getting a lot more respect from staff members and faculty that I worked with because of the journey I have taken.
“Not all students are the same. Even though you may have bad days and you may have bad semesters, you can always grow past it and change people’s perception of you by growing past it.”
“When I found the National Society of Black Engineers, that is what continuously pushed me because I came in when there were a lot of other women like me in the chapter—to not only encourage me on the class side but also encourage me on the professional development side.”
“I’m grateful I have had people on my journey to say, ‘You know what, I see who you are right now but what I am trying to help you do is get you to who you want to become.’ Making sure I open a venue for other people to come through behind me. Making sure that representation is there so that other kids of color, students of color can know they can pursue these fields.
“Helping other people have that moment for me is like—it’s what pushes me to do what I do now.”