Even as a kid, Jasmon Cooley had a passion for technology. She was always on the computer and even played the role of the lead technician, fixing any small technology issue that came up around the house. But growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Cooley says she didn’t have a lot of role models in that industry.
“I didn’t see too many black engineers and I wasn’t really exposed to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) that much,” she said. “When I graduated high school, I went to college and I decided that I wanted to push myself a little bit forward because I knew that I was always going to go back to Memphis. But I wanted to go back and show people that I am an inspiration to them.”
After graduating as Valedictorian from Power Center Academy High School in Memphis, Cooley moved to Washington D.C. to pursue a Computer Science degree from Howard University. There, Cooley realized to achieve her goals and aspirations of completing her degree and eventually returning home as a role model for her community, she had to get started.
Cooley put together an impressive list of accomplishments: She was the Lead Student Technician for Howard University, a Software Engineer Intern at Northrop Grumman and a Software Engineer Intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. But starting her junior year, the determined young student was faced with financial obstacles that threatened the completion of her degree and internships.
“I spent the entire semester working and applying for scholarships and was just hoping that someone actually heard my story and heard where I was trying to go with my education,” Cooley said.
Finally, someone did. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund in partnership with Lowe’s received Cooley’s application and chose to award her with a financial assistance scholarship to continue her education.
“I don’t know where I would have been without the scholarship,” she said. “It changed the course of my life and made sure I was set for another year.”
Cooley used the scholarship to pay off student balances as well as on transportation to allow her to continue her internships with Northrup Grumman and NASA. But as all of those pieces started coming together for Cooley, it also sparked a desire to want to pay it forward.
“If I’m in a position where I have the knowledge, I have the money and I have the energy, why can’t I help other kids break into the STEM industry?”
As a result, Cooley co-founded an educational organization called Tech 4.0 that aims to expose inner-city kids to STEM.
“The main objective of Tech 4.0 is teaching teens concepts within tech where they would learn software, hardware and product design,” Jasmon said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing what I need to do.”
Cooley has already become an inspiration to many but she is not finished yet.
“Believe in yourself. That’s my main thing. Understand who you are and where exactly you want to be and go for what you really want.”