“Nothing is more meaningful to me than my access to education, and bringing the things I value in my life to others.”
As the cornerstone of what drives Makenna Turner is her persistence in bringing equity and education to those in her community and beyond.
Makenna was born and raised in the old mining town of Lafayette, Colorado. She grew up living with and learning from her mother and grandmother who taught her the importance of continuing her education, determination, and service to others. Aware of the struggles they went through to provide her with a good life, she was always determined to never take any opportunity for granted and take every chance to raise others up with her.
As one of few black students at her school, Makenna has dedicated years to bettering equity and equality for people of color in her school community. She spent two years petitioning to start the Black Student Union at her school and has been its President for the past two years. Through the BSU, she has been able to initiate a revision of the school curriculum from Kindergarten to 12th Grade— changing how the school teaches about Black History and increasing the representation of Black Excellence and diversity throughout all school subjects.
Determined to provide others with the educational resources she values, Makenna ran a six-month-long campaign called “Backpacks for Puerto Rico” after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Through this drive, she was able to supply students and teachers in need at Isidro A. Sanchez High School in Luquillo, Puerto with educational materials for the next school year. Inspired by the success of her campaign and continuing need of students, she started a charitable company called Foundations through which she began Project Illuminate, a web platform she coded herself for students to discover and learn about educational opportunities available to them. Throughout her college career, Makenna plans on extending Project Illuminate beyond its current state to supply more students with access to educational opportunity.
When Makenna was first introduced to Computer Science, she worked for a year so she could afford a computer to program on. Now— Makenna enjoys bringing her love of Computer Science to others. As a Junior, she spent every Sunday morning mentoring fellow students in Robotics and worked for a year as Research Assistant at the University of Colorado Boulder exploring how to better introduce students without prior Computer Science experience to Machine Learning, leading her to become a published researcher at 16 years old. As a Senior, Makenna leads the Computer Science Honor Society as its Co-President. For her dedication and work in Computer Science, Makenna has received a National Award for Aspirations in Computing, became a fellow of the She++ Organization, a National Runner-Up for CSEdWeek’s Champion in Computer Science Award and was a Top 3 contender for the Colorado Youth Tech Leader of the Year Award.
Makenna plans on continuing her educational career and developing her altruistic abilities at Stanford University, majoring in Computer Science.