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Local News in Virginia

All In The Family—Granddaughter of Katherine Johnson Earns Perfect Math SOL Score

By Rosaland Tyler

Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

Since the apple never falls from the tree, few are surprised that the great-granddaughter of NASA’s human computer Katherine Johnson recently earned a perfect score on her math SOL.  Mrs. Johnson gained recent attention in the book and movie “Hidden Figures”.

Na Kia Boykins, a third grade student at The Palmer Elementary School in Newport News is one of 59 students who achieved the honor in the local school system. Specifically Boykin scored a perfect score of 600 on the mathematics Standard of Learning test this year.

“I like math because I can look at a problem and figure it out,” said Boykins who also serves as class president at Palmer Elementary. “You can just look at the problem and do it. You use the numbers, and you use your brain. It’s a good challenge.”

Her father, Douglas Boykin, is the son of Katherine Johnson’s middle daughter. He said Na Kia specifically said she wanted to aim for a perfect 600 on the math SOL test.

“I told her she would get a 500 at least, but I said, ‘Don’t be disappointed if you get a 585 or something,’” he said. “She came in the door the next day and said ‘What do you think I got?’ I said, ‘585.’ She said, ‘Higher than that.’

“Finally she said, ‘I got all of ‘em! I got a perfect 600!’ And I started screaming like it was the Super Bowl.”

Her great-grandmother will turn 100 years old in August. Most recently, Johnson’s alma mater—West Virginia State University—announced plans to honor her with a bronze statue on its campus and a scholarship in her name. The  dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 25, the day before Johnson’s 100th birthday.

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According to the university’s website, West Virginia sculptor Frederick Hightower will design a life-size bronze statue of Johnson. “The statue will be placed on WVSU’s quad, where it will serve as a source of inspiration to current and future students of all that is possible through dedication, hard work and perseverance. The estimated cost of the statue installation is $150,000.” 

West Virginia State hopes to endow the scholarship at $100,000, awarding money to students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, targeting people who are underrepresented in those fields.

Johnson’s great-granddaughter has also received several accolades since she earned a perfect math score. Amanda Causey, Boykin’s teacher at Palmer, said, “She has a beautiful personality. She’s a natural leader. She looks out for the other students, and she tutors them. She always wants to help.”

Na Kia’s mother, Nicole Terry added, “She’s such a challenging girl. She challenges me a lot. She wants to excel, and she wants to fulfill things her great-grandmother says. It’s definitely rubbed off on her.”

Katherine Johnson was not able to attend the assembly. She uses a wheelchair and speaks softly, but is involved with her extended family.

“Na Kia definitely looks up to her,” Douglas Boykin said. “My grandmother is getting up there, and they’re not the same conversations that I had with her growing up, but it means a lot to Na Kia. My grandmother always says that learning is a lifetime, and Na Kia knows this is just the beginning.”

This summer, Na Kia Boykins will attend a science camp, and visit relatives in New Orleans.

She wants to be a teacher.

“I always want to be helping other people learn,” she says. “And I want everyone to know me when they see me. I want people to say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Na Kia Boykin!’”

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