Amazing Women of TJ: Najae Ellis

Sam Canizales, Writer

Senior Najae Ellis has proven to be a true example for the women of TJHS as she has been accepted to Stanford as a major in Aerospace engineering all while managing her daily life as an active member of the TJ community and an accomplished dancer. Ellis was the first of the class of 2022 to be accepted into an ivy league.

Ellis has long been an active part of the GTJHS Dance program as well as an extracurricular dance studio. Often students let go of disciplines that do not directly feed into what they plan on pursuing after high school. Ellis has rejected this notion, she has been dancing for 9 years and believes it will always be a part of her life. Though she does not plan on pursuing it for a career she still sees the value in it. 

“I feel like dance has provided me a space that I can take a step away from things at school and home, and just be completely present in what I am doing. I also feel like it’s something where I am in control of the progress that I make, which has pushed me to become very intentional with what I do.” 

Ellis’ interest in aerospace engineering has been nurtured from a young age by her parents. It was a way for her to connect and relate to her parents. This coupled with her natural affinity for math and the hard sciences has laid the foundation for her pursuit. 

“Growing up, my parents took me to airshows with the Blue Angels and shuttle launches. We bonded over things like my science fair projects about solar flares and the aurora borealis and identifying planets. These experiences really pushed my interest in space.”

Najae’s success is beyond impressive, but for her fellow high school students can be increasingly admirable as they understand the time management required to excel in both school and in her dance career. Ellis says that at times she finds it overwhelming, but she has developed the tools and skills that allow her to do all that she wants to. 

“I have learned that the only way for me to get everything done is to negotiate my time. Once I decided it was okay to miss a dance class in order to prioritize school or attend dance classes and acknowledge that I will have to find time elsewhere to get school assignments done, I have been able to balance dance with school.”

Ellis is entering the field of aerospace engineering during a time of intense change in the field. These changes include the increase in women and women of color in the field, but it also looks like the privatization of the field. For Most of the history of modern Aerospace engineering Individuals have been hired by the government to do research and design. In recent years companies have privately hired engineers to push forward innovation in the field. Ellis is excited about this opportunity, but understands that there are still boundaries that should be kept. 

“The aerospace industry is undergoing a lot of changes with private industries growing. I think this is good as long as there is still a moral plane that is walked along and the field does not turn to embrace elitism and division in society.”

Ellis has taken inspiration from the women of her family, who have always been encouraging and pushed her to pursue her passions. These women’s encouragement and support has been coupled with the inspiration brought to her by Dr. Mae Jemison and Nia Butler, two black women who have and are making waves in the aerospace field. 

“ … I found inspiration from women like Dr. Mae Jemison, for her work in aerospace while continuing to engage in the dance world, and Naia Butler- Craig who is young but also is doing interesting things in aerospace right now.”

Ellis has set an incredible example for her fellow students as she has managed her passions and pursuits. She is paving the way for other students, particularly women and women of color. As she moves on she is leaving a legacy for GTJHS.