Do you see the hidden figures?

Do you see the hidden figures?

Feb 8
Paige Jones, Junior in Agricultural Communications

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie Hidden Figures. This film was based on the true story of three African American women working for NASA in the 1960s. They were incredible mathematicians that made significant contributions not only to the United States’ first trip to space, but also to racial and gender equality. Their names were not mentioned in the newspaper when Alan Shepard became the first American to reach outer space or when John Glenn successfully orbited the earth. These women were the behind-the-scenes people, the hidden figures of American history. After watching the movie, I began to question just how many hidden figures there are in the United States. Who are the people that just kept their head down, did their work, accomplished great things, and never asked for any recognition or a simple thank you? Who are those hidden figures at the University of Illinois? Or specifically in the College of ACES? Who are the hidden figures in your own life?

When thinking about the hidden figures of the College of ACES, I’m sure there are several you could name that I’ve never even met or heard of. There are many that stood here over a hundred years ago and have paved the way for each of us, faculty and students alike, on this campus. There are many that are here now that I would consider hidden figures. They do the behind-the-scenes work that maybe you don’t always notice or maybe you have never cared to wonder who was responsible for it. These hidden figures of the College of ACES dedicate themselves to improving this school and never ask for anything in return. Do you see what they do and the impact their work has on the College of ACES? Do you say thank you?

I like to think that there are hidden figures in our own life stories as well.  I think about the people that have positively impacted my life and have played a role in getting me to this point. The first to come to mind are my parents. They deserve every ounce of gratitude and credit that they receive, but they certainly receive the bulk of it so I don’t consider them hidden figures. The hidden figures in my life are the grandparents and babysitters that made sure I was fed after school and got my homework done before my parents picked me up. They are the teachers that were the firsts to suggest I pursue a career in writing or communications. They are the various community members from my hometown that have followed my post-high school endeavors and cheered me on through texts, emails, or simply Facebook comments. All of you deserve more thanks than you realize. That is what makes you hidden figures in my life.

My challenge to all of you reading this is to look for the hidden figures. They are all around us; we just don’t look hard enough. Look for them around the College of ACES. Look for them in your own life. Once you find them, say thank you.