Academy News

CSAA Graduation Candidate Featured in Black History Month TV Program

February 27, 2024
CSAA Graduation Candidate Featured in Black History Month TV Program Hero Image

To celebrate Black History Month, a Myrtle Beach TV station invited a graduation candidate from Carolina Shores Acceleration Academy (CSAA) to introduce viewers to the story of pioneering astronaut Dr. Ronald McNair.

A South Carolina native, McNair was one of America’s first Black astronauts. Born in 1950 in Lake City, SC — during the time of segregation in the southern states — McNair faced racism in his hometown before going on to earn a PhD in physics at MIT and follow his fascination with the stars into a career with the nation’s space program.

Tragically, he died in January 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing everyone aboard on what was to be McNair’s second space flight. McNair left a legacy that WFXB-TV wanted to highlight — and CSAA graduation candidate Qayasia Waiters led viewers along on a visit to the Ronald McNair Life History Center.

“It felt great to be doing a report on another African American for Black History month,” Qayasia, 17, said after filming the TV program. “What he did was very inspirational and very noble.”

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During the tour, which is featured in a segment being aired numerous times on the Fox TV station, Qayasia learns that McNair was a serious-minded student who joined a class of seniors when he was just a sophomore.

Clyde Bess was a classmate of McNair’s who now serves as publicity chairman for the center. During the tour, Qayasia asks him, “How did you feel about him being a sophomore in a class with seniors?”

“We felt pretty good about it,” Bess replies, “because we knew there was somebody in the class who could help us get through it, to be honest.”

Qayasia, a serious student in her own right, found that inspirational. She said later, “The thing that struck me was how dedicated he was to his learning.”

She learned that McNair’s career path began early in life, when he used to go outside to look at the stars glittering in the night sky. She can relate. “I felt like I was connected to him because I like to gaze at the stars, also.”

From a young age, McNair faced discrimination, Qaysia learned. The McNair Center includes a display of books and explains that McNair went to the library as a child in hopes of checking out volumes on topics including physics, but was told he could not because of the color of his skin.

“The librarian who said he could not check out books called his mother and the police,” Qayasia explained.

But young Ronald was not deterred and went on to earn his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees and win admission to the elite ranks of NASA space travelers. Qayasia says that she has not experienced racism of the sort that McNair endured but appreciates that he and other elders laid the groundwork for her and other young Black Americans to create rich and productive lives, sometimes against the odds.

For Qayasia, a good high school education is a vital first step. After moving to South Carolina from New Jersey, she was eager to move away from crowded, one-size-fits all traditional schools to a place that offered a more personalized approach. She found it at CSAA.

“It’s totally different,” she says. “It’s not classrooms; it’s more like open lounges. It gives off a very calming vibe.”

Qayasia comes to campus most every day, and knows that when she needs academic or personal support, all she needs to do is ask. “If there’s a subject I’m struggling with, I like to approach the teacher and ask for one-on-one help.”

She says English content coach Madelyn Johnson has proven a great resource, patiently working with Qayasia to define words and untangle complicated pieces of writing. And she can’t say enough good things about career coach Chica Threadgill, who not only dispenses practical advice about future opportunities but also lends a caring ear for current issues that come along.

“I feel like I can tell her anything,” says Qayasia. “If I have a problem, I can go to her. She gives me great words of wisdom.”