Dionna Littles, majoring in Chemical Engineering, is a DiversityJobs Scholarship Finalist

[I]n 9th grade chemistry lab, I was working with a beautiful sky blue metal salt called copper-sulfate. This chemical compound is bonded to water, which gives it a bright blue hue. As I heated the crystal in a clay bowl the water began to boil off and I was left with a white chalky substance. I dropped this same unattractive compound into a glass of water and instantly it returned to its beautiful blue color. It was in that moment, I realized I wanted to be a world-class chemical engineer.

Making the decision to become an engineer was much easier said than executed. I have experienced multiple difficulties including academic struggles and discrimination. Chemical Engineering is a major that requires you to excel in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and problem solving. Throughout high school, I struggled in many of my math courses beginning with Algebra. Instead of giving up or taking a lower level math I tried harder. I woke every morning at 5am to make it to school early and receive extra tutoring. My efforts were successful and by my senior year I was taking AP calculus, AP chemistry, and honors physics. I began my first year at Penn State University with a strong educational foundation. I experienced many similar academic struggles within my college career as well, but approached these obstacles using the same determination I exhibited in high school.

Outside of my academics hurdles, I also had to overcome discrimination within the college of engineering. As a first year student, I was determined to obtain a summer internship opportunity and gain work experience. I received an offer from Dow Chemical Company, but they required me to complete three co-op terms. Because I was unsure about working during school semesters, I sought out the advice of an engineering co-op advisor. Unfortunately, he only provided me with words of discouragement explaining “How is possible that a freshman obtained an internship with Dow? What did you say to them to get this job? A freshman has never bothered me before with questions?” I was extremely hurt by this experience and became even more confused as to what I should do. Thankfully, my parents, friends, and fellow students provided me with support and washed my worries away.

I decided to accept the co-op position with Dow and became excited about the future learning opportunities. As a junior, I am so glad that I accepted Dow’s offer. I have since completed 2 summer internships and 2 co-ops between 3 different companies including Dow, Kraft, and Merck. I am also returning to Dow in the summer 2013 for my third co-op rotation! I don’t regret any of the decisions I have made and I have learned to disregard comments of individuals who do not have my best interest at heart. My graduation will signify that I am one step closer to becoming a world class engineer. It will signify that all my accomplishments and failures were not in vain.

DiversityJobs.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Dionna Littles as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.



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  • Wow, you are an inspiration – as a minority in engineering as a female I know there are many struggles we endure but you young lady are an inspiration to all 🙂

  • What an awesomely tenacious young woman you are Ms. Littles. Certainly, you posess attributes of world class status. This, based on your conscious decision to dig your heels in during high school years, reach within yourself, do the work required work, sacrafice and prioritize your time wisely to be successful in attaining your dream, and finally, prove to yourself that you have within, what’s clearly destined to be- greatness. I wish you all the best. Keep your eyes on the prize….WORLD CLASS. It’s in you! You’ve earned my vote young lady.

  • What an inspirational essay! Being very good friends with Dionna, I know that there is no one who deserves this scholarship more! Good Luck!

  • It’s perseverance like this that is truely inspiring. This is a strong young woman who, when faced with adversity, maintains sight of her goals and perseveres. Dionna is truely deserving of this scholarship!!!

  • I most concur, Dionna has always been determined to achieve whatever goals she set for herself! I remember her wanting to join the cross country track team in high school, she research the correct procedures for running! Before she graduated she was name captain and honored by her teammates! This is just one small example of her determination and will to succeed. I could give hundreds but, I’m biased because I’m her father! Please consider DIonna, she will make you happy that you did!

  • Good luck Di! I remember getting math tutoring with you after school in middle school and high school. That engineering co-op advisor had no idea what he was talking about. You’re seriously one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

  • I was roommates and have been close friends with this girl ever since freshmen year. Honestly have never met somebody as motivated, persistent and dedicated as her. This Essay portrays that along with your exceptional performance in your classes. Best of luck and cant think of anybody who deserves this more than you. You are a role model and a perfect example of a minority/diverse person excelling. Keep the good work up!

  • You inspire Me & I KNOW you will inspire others! Good Luck Dionna!!!!! NSBE Believes in you and so do I. I have all the confidence that you’ll win this scholarship.

  • Dionna you’ve always been crazy impressive and excelled in everything I’ve ever seen you do. You deserve it. Wish you the best!

  • From the short period that I have known you I truely believe that you are a gifted person, and I really do hope you win! Your essay was awesome And motivational!

  • Wow Dionna, I never realized the issues you faced in regards to your freshman year internship. I am glad to see that it was a worthwhile experience and that you used it as a chance to build character. I love your essay and I know that you will become a great Chemical Engineer. Best of luck!

  • Your story is absolutely incredible. The fact that you continue to excel in the face of adversity is inspirational and serves as a model for other students, myself included. Keep on fighting, Dionna, you have a very bright future ahead.

  • Dionna LIttles, I appreciate all sharing with us all of this information that you experienced. I love your essay, it seems like you the words just flowed from your brain without any thought….And you kept it real, and did not sugar coat anything. Congratulations to you again!!! You are an inspiration to others.


  • Dionna — congratulations on all your accomplishments. The work experience with Dow, Kraft, and Merck will be invaluable — those are 3 great (and very different) companies. Good luck with everything!

  • Dionna, congratulations on getting this far and over coming all of these obstacles! I know you will make a great Chemical Engineer!

  • As a fellow engineer I must say that I am touched by your experiences, and I’m proud to know that you suceeded while also making a path for others to follow. You deserve the best!

  • Glad to hear that all the negative attempts to discourage you
    didn’t work. Continue to keep a positive
    outlook on life and continue to prove to yourself and others that you are qualified
    and will continue to lead… enjoyed reading your essay; well written. God bless you in all your endeavors.

  • Wow! This is amazing, you have so much experience. Very interesting co op and internship opportunities you have had. You are a well deserving student of this scholarship!

  • Awesome story Dionna! I could see you had that drive ever since I met you freshman year. I know you’re going to do great things where ever you go! Keep up the good work!

  • I admire your perseverance and positive attitude. Do not let anyone or anything discourage you from your dreams. People thought I was crazy for changing my major, but at the end of the day you will only have to answer to your own reflection in the mirror. Keep up the great work; I’m rooting for you!

  • Great job Dionna , You deserve this award so much. You have been a hardworker and a great leader for as long as I remember. I know you will win !

  • Dionna, you are such an inspiration! This is an amazing story, keep up the great work, and keep believing that you can do anything! You’re going to be a spectacular Chemical Engineer!

  • Dionna, I know we haven’t seen each other since high school but I’m so happy (and unsurprised) to hear you’re doing big things. Good luck!

  • I am happy to hear that you are following your dreams and decided to reach out to helpful sources to help make those come true. Hearing stories like this gives us all hope, and change starts with us and our actions.

  • You are a huge inspiration for the black community and it’s nice to read a story like this. I know what its like to feel struggle and its beautiful to read this.

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