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

In 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.’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.

  • KelvinParker

    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.

  • Emily T.

    Your determination and perseverance are inspiring. You have a very successful career ahead of you 🙂

  • You are a phenomenal young woman and I am very proud to say that you were one of my students!

  • Bethany Markiewicz

    Your hard work is very inspiring, you are going to do great things, Dionna!

  • Karisma Desai

    Great work! You can accomplish anything you set your mind to!

  • Kaylyn

    This is awesome! You are definitely going to be a world class engineer soon enough!

  • Jerrel

    Great job! Keep going after your dreams, you are well on your way! Awesome essay too!

  • Jennifer Alzate

    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!

  • Heather Pieszala

    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 you can dooooo itiitititittttttttttt

  • Keri

    Awesome story of how you overcame your obstacles!

  • Isaiah Littles

    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 have so much drive and motivation!! It is inspirational to read about what you went through. Keep up the amazing job!! You are going to be a great Chemical Engineer =D

  • Dana

    Great story Dionna! You are such a hard worker and very deserving of this scholarship!

  • Lisa

    Awesome story Dionna! Sounds like you have worked very hard.

  • 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!

  • Adriyel Nieves

    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!

  • Lola

    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!

  • Nijah

    Congrats Dionna ! Im so proud of you & thank you for sharing your story !

  • Congratulations Dionna and thank you for sharing your story. It will help other young people who may experience the same challenges.

  • Adull Wallace

    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.

  • Denzel John

    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!

  • Chardae Harris

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

  • Andrew Zydney

    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!

  • Joeann Jones-Barkley

    Dionna,Congrats on your outstanding achivement,best of luck as a Chemical Enginner!

  • Marie Fortune

    Tu es tres intelligent et bonne chance la belle docteur Dionna.



  • Arceola Stewart

    Excellent and I’m so very proud of you.

  • Dionna Littles

    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.

    • kisha wesley

      Ooops….the above comment was from Kisha Wesley (mommy old coworker)

  • Avery Williams

    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.

  • Colorful and inspiring Dionna, great work!

  • Lindeon Davis

    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!

  • Yessenia Moreno

    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!

  • Ahmed

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

  • Alyssa Bertelsen

    I’m so happy I got to know you on out Dow co-op. You are an amazing person and I wish you the best of luck!

  • Adrian David

    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.

  • Cristina Berrios

    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!

  • Ayesha Ali

    Your perseverance will certainly pay off, you deserve this!!

  • Ariyanna Norman

    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.

  • Jarell Mason

    Great Essay! Good Luck!

  • Cyrus Littles

    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!

  • Tochi Nworu

    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!!!

  • Nydia Bryan-Green

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

  • Cynthia Bell-Pinkney

    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.

  • Jean-Pierre LaGuerre

    Good job Dionna, I love your essay and the drive you portrayed in it.
    Got my vote

  • Celeste G.

    You go girl! You show all those boys that girls can kick ass too!

  • Madubuike Okafor

    Well written, I hope you win

  • Sheila Wooten

    Great essay! I wish you all the best. So proud of you!

  • Mercedes

    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 🙂

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