Hear from two students named a 3M Scholar in partnership with UNCF
Mar 4, 2024

Josiah Christopher’s interest in discovering how things work started when he was young and went beyond building blocks and Legos to taking apart household appliances.

“It was a passion I had, and my parents encouraged me to dive deeper into it. So, I got involved in a lot of engineering camps, competitions, car building, robotics and everything I could,” Josiah said.

As a junior at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, the natural next step was majoring in mechanical engineering.

For Damenica Ellis, a sophomore at Howard University, a passion for learning inspires her to share that knowledge with others.

“I want to inform people about what is going on around them and be a voice for underrepresented groups who might not have one,” Damenica said.

Josiah and Damenica are two of 49 3M Scholars awarded a scholarship from UNCF (United Negro College Fund) to support their higher education.

“Here at 3M, we are so inspired by the 3M Scholars who are academically preparing to change the world,” said Michael Stroik, vice president, Community Relations. “This program was created to help transform lives through scholarships and career exploration opportunities and UNCF does an incredible job advancing this work.”

The scholarship helped Josiah fund his education, and to him being a 3M Scholar has meant persevering through anything and everything. He credits the scholarship for staying in school.

“I was not doing well in school and had to take a break,” said Josiah. “But they still helped me get back on my feet and offered tutoring services, resources and people who were there to help. They saw that I was in need and helped me meet that need.”

As he is planning for the future, Josiah is looking to bring science fiction to life and hopes to help design technology that enables solid objects to phase through matter.

“I want to be involved in creating something from sci-fi shows, maybe teleportation or being able to walk through a wall. I feel like with what we have going and with what 3M is capable of, it could very much be a possibility,” he said.

STEM has had a big impact on Damenica’s life, starting when she was young and her parents created space for her to discover and explore on her own.

“One Christmas, my mom got me an experiment kit. It was making a circuit to turn on a light, but once I had completed the instructions, it had other things you could build and tests to conduct, as well,” she shared. “My dad's innovativeness had an impact on me, too ... He would make something of nothing – he was really an inventor in his own way. One winter we didn't have a sled and he tied some extension cords to the top of a garbage bin. I had the time of my life.”

When it was time to decide on a major in college, the multifaceted Damenica declared one that would bring all her interests together – Media, Film and Journalism, focused on the journalism angle.

Her background in experiments and learning about a variety of topics is helping in her major today, she said, where STEM topics play a larger role than people might think. She’s learning how to build websites, make graphics and develop a variety of digital content so she can share her stories and learnings with a large audience.

The technology she’s most excited about? Advancements in medical technology.

“I was inspired last summer when I spent a day at 3M Center talking with 3M engineers. They are doing such important work for society, but some people don’t even know what an engineer does. I want to change that,” said Damenica.

3M’s impact

In 2020, 3Mgives gifted UNCF a $5 million gift to provide scholarships to underrepresented minority students in St. Paul, Minnesota, with plans to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU). Since the announcement, 49 students have been named 3M Scholars and will each receive $25,000 over a four-year period.

3M’s grant with UNCF is one way we’re working toward our goal of providing five million STEM and skilled trades learning experiences through 2025. By helping these students pursue higher education, 3M hopes to inspire curiosity, improve educational outcomes and transform opportunities for underrepresented individuals. As of 2022, we have provided over two million opportunities across the U.S.

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