Makayta A. Cole

Hometown – Hamilton, NJ
Undergrad – Stanford University

The daughter of proud hard-working Sierra Leonean immigrants, Makayta Cole, was born in Silver Spring, Maryland on September 3rd, 2001. A lover of stories and learning at an extremely early age, Makayta could always be found with her nose in a book or off exploring whatever she could get her hands on, an early sign of her curious nature and persistent drive.

When Makayta was 7 years old, her parents emigrated with her back to Sierra Leone in order to start a school to help improve the dilapidated state of education in the country after the recent Civil War. As she continued her schooling there, Makayta was an eager and enthusiastic learner who loved literature, history, and science and excelled in most of her schoolwork. When she wasn’t in school, she loved to help out with the school her mother ran in as many ways as she could, including helping organize and plan lessons and making sure the little ones weren’t up to any trouble during recess. It was there during these formative experiences that she realized just how much she enjoyed working with children and learning just how powerful education can be in driving people forward.

Due to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone that killed more than 11,000 people, and its profound effect on schools, businesses, and the government, Makayta moved back to the United States away from her parents to live with her aunt in Hamilton, New Jersey in order to finish her schooling. Continuing on her path of academic success, Makayta challenged herself constantly in and out of the classroom. She sought after rigorous AP classes and participated in numerous clubs and organizations around her school such as the Key Club and the Debate and Track Teams, looking for anyway she could interact positively with her community, all while maintaining a 4.7 GPA. She especially enjoyed her STEM and technology classes and often sought out outside opportunities such as the New Jersey Governor’s School in the Sciences as well as the MIT Science Technology and Engineering Community to expand her existing knowledge about the various fields in STEM.

However, despite all of the classes and clubs that were available, Makayta felt that there was a lack of STEM-related opportunities and avenues to participate in in her school and community. Thus, in her Junior Year she launched her school’s first Coding Club as well as the Hamilton Youth Coding Initiative, a volunteer organization that reaches out to local elementary schools to introduce students to the vast and vibrant world of STEM. A firm believer in the famous quote by Nelson Mandela that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Makayta sought after any opportunity to empower those that are often underrepresented in STEM fields to understand their potential and not be discouraged by the statistics. Through these organizations as well as her appointment to the School Board, Makayta has been able to advocate for those without a voice and help expand the reach of STEM education in her community.

In the fall, Makayta plans to study Computer Science and Education with the ultimate goal of becoming an education advocate and policymaker to empower others to pursue STEM. She is incredibly thankful to the Ron Brown Scholar Community for this amazing opportunity.