Tandon Student Awarded Highest Honors from National Youth Organization

Kyra-Lee Harry Recognized for Her Community Work

At the heart of NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s mission is its commitment to creating an innovative engineering environment dedicated to building technology and tools to benefit society, in New York and beyond.

For first-year NYU Tandon student Kyra-Lee Harry, ‘technology in service to society’ is more than a motto, it is how she lives her life. From sitting on the Brooklyn’s Community Board 9, to creating a New York State 4-H club at her high school on STEM and community engagement, to organizing a youth conference bringing together students from across the five boroughs, all while earning both an advanced regents diploma and an associate’s degree in biology before 18, she has been working towards her goal of making people’s lives better ever since she was a young girl.

The Business and Technology Management student recently received some well-deserved recognition when the National 4-H Council, the global nonprofit that fosters youth development and leadership, bestowed one of its highest honors upon Harry — the 2018 Youth in Action Pillar Award. The award highlights four young 4-H members who are leaders in their community who best represent each of the four ‘pillars’ of 4-H: agriculture, healthy living, STEM, and citizenship. The organization honored Harry with the citizenship pillar that recognized her lifelong commitment to civic engagement and community building in Brooklyn. Harry, who has been part of 4-H since she joined one of their youth programs in sixth grade, is the first New York 4-H member to earn this award; she also received a scholarship worth $5,000 towards her education.

Growing up in Crown Heights, Harry attended Medgar Evers College Preparatory School where she started a 4-H club centered on fostering an inclusive environment for STEM education and community leadership for her fellow students. While she was lucky to have a family who encouraged her passion for STEM, she knows many do not have the same experience. “My family and community showed me how essential this support is, and for those that may not have that support, I want them to know I’m here to lend a helpful hand,” she said.

After a local community board member saw the important work she was doing at her high school, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams selected her to serve as a youth representative for the Community Board 9. At 15, she became the youngest member to be inducted into a community board where she worked on youth and education committees focused on youth development programs and community engagement.

In 2017, Harry organized and managed the board’s first annual Youth Forum, where over 300 students from the five boroughs converged to learn about leadership opportunities and how they can impact their own communities, here in New York and around the world.

“Once I learned of the Business and Technology Management degree program at NYU Tandon, I realized this is where I need to be and where I can develop my ideas. This is the place where there are endless opportunities.”
— Kyra-Lee Harry

When she was only five, Harry learned the significant impact that technology can make towards helping someone when her mother’s lungs collapsed. While the experience prompted her initial desire to become a doctor after seeing all that went into helping her mother, the 4-H club introduced her to the many ways engineering can be used to benefit others. “Learning that engineering is not a field with a set definition, I realized that engineers are those who want change, they see what needs to be fixed and what needs to be developed so that society and the world can be a better place.”

Yet, with her years working within the community board and leading the 4-H club, Harry sought an institution that provided her with the opportunity to combine her two passions of engineering and management, which she discovered here at NYU Tandon.

“Once I learned of the Business and Technology Management degree program at NYU Tandon, I realized this is where I need to be and where I can develop my ideas. This is the place where there are endless opportunities.”

Since starting at NYU Tandon, Harry has been quite busy. Only a few weeks into her first semester at NYU Tandon, Harry was featured in an article from The Bridge about her decision to attend the school, which included the higher amount of women classmates she found here. She also became the first-year ambassador for the school’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a group she hopes one day to represent as the NYU chapter president and support other students hoping to pursue STEM educations and careers.

“When I look at the statistics for the STEM field, there are not many black female engineers. Even walking into my classrooms here and being the only black student in the class, I wondered in my first semester, did I make the right decision?” she shared. “But I remembered what I always tell myself, that perseverance is key. When you’re in the classroom, you’re adding your ideas, experiences, and culture to the conversation. I want to break barriers, and be working alongside the women who are revolutionizing the way the engineering field is seen.”

Harry is already forging ahead on her chosen path. On March 20, she and her fellow Youth in Action Award recipients will be honored at the 2018 National 4-H Council’s Legacy Awards in Washington, D.C., where they’ll have an opportunity to share their story on a national stage.

“I want to make sure that whatever I’m doing here at Tandon doesn't just benefit myself, I want it to benefit my family, my community, and the world,” Harry said. “At the end of the day, I’m a black female engineering student, who aspires to be a black female engineering manager. I want to be amongst the women in the STEM field who are showing young black girls that it is okay not to follow societal expectations. You can go above and beyond, and you can achieve any goal you set your mind to.”

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018