When financial services mogul and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
announced a $50 million gift to the Boston Museum of Science
, honors biology major Kierra Walsh ’19 was invited to share the podium — at Bloomberg’s request.
“They said my story resonated with him and he had a very similar story. When he was growing up, he was going to the museum all the time on weekends and also going with his family,” Walsh says.
Bloomberg, who grew up in Medford, went to Saturday science classes at the museum starting when he was 10. He says the museum’s hands-on educational activities changed his life, showing him wider possibilities. His $50 million gift — the largest in the museum’s history — will support educational programs and honor his parents, William and Charlotte Bloomberg.
Walsh started going to the museum with her parents as a baby. As a toddler, she loved dressing up as a bee and playing in the hive in the Discovery Center. As a child, she sought out the volunteers in red lab coats, who answered her questions and helped her with experiments at the water table. Her whole family entered the Design Challenges on weekends.
In high school, Walsh wore the red lab coat herself, twice earning the President's Volunteer Service Award
. And she started a small zoo, the Live Animal Learning Lab, at Billerica Memorial High School, modeled on the museum’s Live Animal Center. Her high school now offers a zoology course — and Walsh is on her way to becoming a veterinarian.
She thanked Bloomberg for his generous gift to the museum in her speech last week.
“Your gift ensures millions more children will have the same eye-opening experiences I had,” she told him.
Afterward, she got to chat with Bloomberg and make a Snapchat story with him.
“He was so sweet. He made so much time to talk to me,” she says. “It was really cool hearing him talk about his parents and how they impacted him. He said his parents would be so proud to see what he’s doing now, but they also would have said, ‘Don’t let it go to your head,’ and that’s also something I could hear my parents saying.”
Walsh has plenty to boast about if she were given to bragging. She came to UMass Lowell because she received three scholarships that cover most of her expenses. She entered as a sophomore, thanks to the nine AP classes and exams she took in high school.
“I liked the community feel to it, the fact that it was a smaller group within the overall larger university,” she says.
She says she loves the university and her classes, which include genetics, chemistry and an honors biology seminar.
“All of the professors are so willing to talk to you about their research or to give you advice,” she says.
“There’s a lot more connection between the students, too, and a lot more school spirit. Everyone’s always studying together. Something I noticed at a lot of the private schools I toured was that there was more of a competitive streak, as compared to people trying to collaborate, which you see here.”