This Third-Grader’s Email Perfectly Illustrates Why Representation Matters

Third Grader Sends Interview Request To Asian American Marine Biologist Representation Matters

What we believe we can become is often shaped by the world we see around us. This is especially true for young children who dream of becoming everything from astronauts to future world leaders. And it’s one of the reasons why representation matters so much. For Asian American marine biologist and Ph.D. candidate Elaine Shen, she had never considered herself to be an inspiration for future generations. That is until she received an unexpected email from a third-grader in Minnesota who wanted to interview her for a class project.

“I am working on my big year-end project, which is a biography,” the heartwarming message reads. “I wanted to choose someone who is Asian American because I am also Asian American, and I have a passion for marine biology, so I wanted to choose a marine biologist. I did some online research and found your website. I would like to ask if I could interview you.”

Needless to say, Shen was immediately touched by the email—so much so that she shared a screenshot of the child’s inspiring message on Twitter. “I don’t care if it’s lame, I immediately started crying when I got this email,” she captioned the tweet, along with the hashtag #RepresentationMatters. The post immediately went viral, gaining more than 270,000 likes and 1,500 comments since she first shared it.

Many commenters were just as moved by the email as Shen was. “Teary eyed here,” said one Twitter user. “It’s pretty amazing to witness that children are inspired and motivated to achieve as much as you have done.” Other readers were reminded of their own experiences with young children growing up. “As someone who has raised 4 third graders and taught 3rd grade many years ago, this delights me to no end,” said another commenter. “Representation matters, and it is awesome this young person did the research and you were there to be found.”

Now that the story has touched thousands, Shen has a renewed motivation to complete her Ph.D. and continue fostering an environment of support and inclusivity for students of color within her field. But no matter what she goes on to do next, there’s no doubt that her example has directly impacted the life of at least one person. And it’s quite possible that she has even gone on to inspire hundreds more.

This third-grader's email to an Asian American marine biologist perfectly illustrates why representation matters so much.

The email recipient, Elaine Shen, was extremely touched by the message.

Several other Twitter users also shared how moved they were by the heartwarming email.

Elaine Shen: WebsiteTwitter
h/t: [Upworthy]

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Arnesia Young

Arnesia Young is a contributing writer for My Modern Met and an aspiring art historian. She holds a BA in Art History and Curatorial Studies with a minor in Design from Brigham Young University. With a love and passion for the arts, culture, and all things creative, she finds herself intrigued by the creative process and is constantly seeking new ways to explore and understand it.
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