CLARKSBURG – Sienna Williams wears her love of the stars and outer space displayed prominently on her skin. There are planets on her wrist, a tattoo she received at the age of 17 with permission from her mother, Daphne. It was to commemorate her first NASA internship as a high school student. There is an alien to match her aunt’s, who is a tattoo artist.
There is also the astronaut on her left arm, a tattoo Williams got on her 18th birthday. It was completed hours before Clarksburg High School’s girls basketball team was scheduled to face Wootton for the 4A West division regualr season title.
Clarksburg won its first basketball division title in school history that night, thanks in no small part to Williams, who capped off the historic victory with a 3-point bucket in the last seconds of the game. That win served as another positive memory in Williams’s 2018-19 sports season. After all, the Clarksburg graduate plays both soccer and softball and served as a captain on all three varsity teams during her senior year.
On June 6, Williams’s academic achievements and athletic prowess earned her the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 2019 Scholar-Athlete Minds in Motion Scholarship sponsored by the Allstate Foundation. That scholarship is reserved for student-athletes who maintain a 3.25 GPA or above during their athletic careers.
When colleges came courting, Williams first received attention from Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and soon the acceptance letters started pouring in. However, before the Clarksburg graduate could start applying to other universities, she was accepted early admissions into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Williams knew of the school’s aerospace engineering program, and she liked the community there, so the choice was an easy one.
“She just really likes to learn and gets excited to learn new things. If there’s something she doesn’t know, then she is driven to try to find out what that is, especially when it comes to math and science,” said Daphne Williams. “She’s just always been excited to learn about those subjects. She is also driven to be the best. No matter what she’s doing, she wants to excel at it.”
Williams’s focus on academics and love of learning have led her to tutor some of her classmates in math and science. That assistance with classwork, as well as her multifaceted talents as a three-sport athlete, led Williams to many friendships with multiple groups at Clarksburg.
“She has so much personality, and she’s so much fun to be around. Everybody gets along with Sienna,” said Clarksburg soccer Head Coach Katherine Johnson. “It’s just like every time I saw her in the hallways, she was with a different group of people. She never had a clique. Everybody knew who Sienna was. Clarksburg is going to be a different school without Sienna Williams.”
When Johnson first arrived at Clarksburg before Williams’s senior year, the coach had heard stories of her future goalie before she’d even met her. Even though Williams’ job had caused her to miss out on summer league play, Johnson was impressed when she first saw her new goalie play during the regular season.
“I’ve coached for 14 years, and she is one in a million. She is one of the best kids I have ever coached in terms of athletics and academics,” said Johnson. “She’s the whole package…her personality. Just the whole package.”
That talent was perhaps never more apparent on the soccer field than it was last October when the Coyotes traveled to the Cougar Dome to face then-undefeated Quince Orchard. There were several Clarksburg fans in the stands and, as always, Daphne Williams was among them: three of Williams’ four daughters had played on Clarksburg’s soccer team, and all three of the Williams sisters left a lasting impression on Quince Orchard that night, one that the Cougar faithful will not soon forget.
The Coyotes had entered the game with a 2-3 record, a stark contrast to the 6-0 Cougars. It should have been an easy win for Quince Orchard; instead, the game was tied 1-1 for most of the night and even went to overtime. Less than a minute into the overtime period, sophomore Haley Williams broke the stalemate and earned the game-winning goal, her second of the night. The assist had come courtesy of the third Williams sister, Jasmine.
The emotional win left its mark on Sienna Williams; she even referred to the game against the Cougars as one of her favorite memories at Clarksburg.
“QO was undefeated, and we go into their stadium on their Senior Night. ‘Oh, we just have Clarksburg at our home turf.” And we went in and we won,” said Johnson. “And the reason we won that game is because of the Williams sisters. Sienna had an unbelievable game at goal. Some of those saves she was making were some of her best saves all year. And her mother was crying at the end of that game…to watch three of your daughters have such an impact on that game, and to just be so proud…I have chills just thinking about it.”
“It was a crazy, emotional rollercoaster throughout that whole game,” said Daphne Williams. “I’m so glad that I had that one opportunity to see the three of them playing together. I couldn’t be a prouder mom.”
While Sienna Williams will not be playing soccer at MIT, she will continue her basketball career in the red and gray and play Division III ball. While competing, Williams will be exploring her love of space and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), something apparent to her family from an early age.
“She was one of those kids in kindergarten that said they wanted to be an astronaut. A lot of kids say that, and you’re like ‘That’s cute, you want to be an astronaut,’” said Daphne Williams. “She went through middle school, and she always knew she wanted to do something in STEM. She always excelled in math, and she got excited by math and science. Around tenth grade, she said, ‘Mom, I think I still want to be an astronaut.’”
“As far back as I can remember, being really little, I would love to go out and look at the stars. I would just go out and stare at the sky and think that it was really pretty and amazing,” said Sienna Williams. “I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was in kindergarten, and I know that’s not an easy thing to do; so doing well in school is something I need to do in order to meet that goal that I have.”
Williams mapped out her game plan in high school to achieve her goal. First came research, including reading about missions to Mars. Then came the Advanced Placement courses and a pair of summer internships with NASA, even though they usually accept only high school graduates rather than current students.
For Williams, though, it is not just about the scholarships or internships. It is about breaking through stereotypes and pushing herself to be the best in a male-dominated field like aerospace engineering.
“I’ve had so many women that I look up to tell me I can do STEM, and seeing them in it has encouraged me that I can do it as well. I also want to be that kind of role model for people younger than me and just to bring in more women and a more diverse group of people into the field,” she said. “I also want to go into space and make more scientific progress and new discoveries.”
“I have no doubt that she’s going to make it,” said Johnson. “She’s going to see us from space one day. She’s on her way.”