Florida teen Kiera Wilmot, 16, deserved some good news after being the target of a racist legal system, arrested and expelled for causing a small explosion during a science experiment. And she received it in the form of an unexpected scholarship to attend the United States Advanced Space Academy (ASA) from former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, reports the Black Youth Project.
As previously reported by NewsOne, on the morning of Monday, April 20, Kiera mixed some household chemicals inside of an 8 oz. bottle of water. The top flew off the bottle and a cloud of smoke erupted.
There was no damage caused and no one was injured, but Kiera was led away in handcuffs and faced possible charges of “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.”
“She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone,” principal Ron Pritchard told WTSP. “She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”
Kiera was expelled, served a 10-day suspension and will have to complete her diploma in an expulsion program.
Watch Kiera’s case here:
Hickam, whose memoir, Rocket Boys, was turned into a feature film called October Sky, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, had a similar experience to Kiera.
One scene in the film reenacts him being led away from his high school in handcuffs after experimenting with a rocket.
“I think she will feel right at home [at ASA],” Hickam says, “because she will be with other students just like her who are intensely interested in science and space.”
Kiera has accepted the scholarship and is looking forward to the experience, according to her mother, Marie Wilmot, who works at the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute:
“Kiera is a bright, imaginative young lady who loves science, technology, engineering and math – and she also loves music and art. In today’s terminology, they would refer to it as STEAM, which is the STEM field with the arts added in. Kiera joined her middle school Robotics Team, which is where her love of robotics began. She is very excited at this opportunity and is intrigued by Mr. Hickam’s story. We have ordered the movie October Sky and will be checking out his books. She would like to speak with Mr. Hickam and would like to meet him in person someday.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, the State Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday afternoon that no formal charges will be filed and she will not be prosecuted as they had initially planned to do.
Now, Kiera’s attorney, Larry Hardaway, is focused on getting her arrest record expunged and getting her back into Bartow High School.
“…we’re still in negotiation, said Hardaway. “I’m going to probably have more contact with them this afternoon. I’m trying to get them to give me some firm commitment as to the direction that they’re going to take and then we’re going to then involve ourselves in that direction in hoping to get it done.”
Appearing on the Tom Joyner Morning Show in her first national interview since the traumatizing event, Kiera told Roland Martin that she’s scared to do science now, but still plans to major in technology engineering when she goes to college.
When co-host Sybil Wilkes told Kiera not to give up on her dreams and to “get back up on that bicycle and ride again, girl.”
Kiera said some words that we can all live by:
“I’m going to get off the bicycle and try the unicycle.”
You go, Kiera! We’re all so proud of you!