When Rasheem Clark was 13 years old, he saw firsthand how engineering can change lives.
Clark suffered from Blount’s Disease, a growth disorder that causes bowleggedness. The condition is rare but more common among African American children. To correct the problem, he wore a leg brace that his doctor created using a 3D printer.
“He was collaborating with an engineer to make custom braces to better help his patients,” he explains. “I got to talking with him and really became enthralled by the process and how some clever engineering could make someone’s life so much easier.”
Now a fifth-year student graduating with a major in mechanical engineering and a double minor in engineering leadership and music, Clark will address the Class of 2021 as the undergraduate speaker during the College of Engineering’s virtual commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 9 at 10 a.m. He will share how support systems can help you achieve your goals.
Clark is the first person in his immediate family to attend college. He was academically gifted at an early age and was part of a program in middle school to help more students from his West Philadelphia neighborhood attend college. Once he formed an interest in engineering, his focus was on Drexel.
“Because I’m a native Philadelphian, I knew Drexel’s reputation very well, and I knew that the engineering program was outstanding,” Clark says. “Drexel was always the school I had in mind.”
As a student, Clark participated in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a program that provides professional development opportunities, workshops and networking for students from minority populations in an effort to increase the number of degrees earned. Clark says that the program taught him something that he wants to share with both new students and his fellow graduates.
“You can’t do everything alone,” he says. “As a new college student, you’re trying to figure out a lot of things for the first time – your finances, your schedule, and who you are as a person. When you’re feeling lost, lean on your support system. The same goes for all of us as we graduate and start new careers. It’s okay to ask for help.”
During his co-op cycles, Clark took the opportunity to work in different types of jobs. He was a construction services intern for Partner Engineering & Science, Inc., an engineering technician for the Agriculture Research Service arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an engineering/operations co-op for SPS Technologies. Clark says that the variety taught him another important lesson.
“You can’t be afraid to take risks,” he says. “It’s okay to get out of your comfort zone. Take the time to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do. You learn most when you’re uncomfortable.”
Clark will continue his studies at Drexel as a student in the MS in Engineering Management program.