Alexa Terrazas, a young Latina atmospheric scientist, had just begun work on her master’s and doctoral degrees in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UCLA when she applied for the June Bacon-Bercey Fellowship in Atmospheric Sciences for Women.
Terrazas became the first Hispanic to win the award and is poised to follow in the footsteps of Bacon-Bercey, the late meteorologist of color who reshaped the STEM career landscape.
“I’ve always been a really curious kid and really love science,” Alexa Terrazas told AccuWeather with a smile. As a little girl growing up in Cathedral City, California, she said she knew from a very young age that she was destined for a career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
As of 2019, women occupy only 27% of all STEM careers, despite accounting for nearly half of the U.S. workforce. The number of women of color within that 27% is even scarcer, comprising about 5% of the STEM workforce.
Black scientist June Bacon-Bercey blazed this trail decades ago by becoming the first black woman to earn a college degree in meteorology and become a television meteorologist.
Following her passing in 2019, her family, along with AccuWeather and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), hope to continue June’s legacy and begin to close the opportunity gap for women in STEM with a new scholarship, the June Bacon-Bercey Scholarship.
In 2021, Alexa Terrazas became the first recipient of the June Bacon-Bercey Scholarship in Atmospheric Sciences for Women. Terrazas, 22, told AccuWeather that she is excited to be able to put some of her research goals into practice. Her plans for the fellowship would make Bacon-Bercey proud.
“I’m planning to work with experts in support of education and research goals relating to water and climate change, especially tribally-supported and native goals of theirs because that’s really important,” Terrazas said.
Also inspiring, Terrazas said, has been “trying to figure out how climate change disproportionately affects communities of color. So doing more outreach with the support of the scholarship, I think that’s what really excited me once I heard back that I was a recipient of it.”
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