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Bob Mathis Elementary girls to see Hidden Figures movies with help of neighbors

Rosie Manins | 2/24/2017, 6 a.m.
Fifty-one fourth and fifth grade girls from Bob Mathis Elementary will get to see the popular 2016 biographical film Hidden ...
Bob Mathis Elementary, in Decatur, is presented a cheque by members of the Chapel Meadows Civic Association and the Creekwood Hills Community Association on Feb. 21, for the school's female 4th and 5th graders to attend a private screening of the Hidden Figures movie in March. Accepting the cheque at the school Tuesday was school principal Dawn Blackwell, 4th and 5th grade girls and their teachers. Rosie Manins

The Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women – mathematician Katherine Johnson, programmer Dorothy Vaughan, and engineer Mary Jackson – who were top NASA scientists between 1943 and 1986 and were instrumental in the program's first successful space missions, including John Glenn’s first flight into space.

The Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women – mathematician Katherine Johnson, programmer Dorothy Vaughan, and engineer Mary Jackson – who were top NASA scientists between 1943 and 1986 and were instrumental in the program's first successful space missions, including John Glenn’s first flight into space.

Fifty-one fourth- and fifth-grade girls from Bob Mathis Elementary will get to see the popular 2016 biographical film "Hidden Figures," compliments of two homeowners associations near the Decatur school.

The students – 27 fourth-graders and 24 fifth-graders – will get an all-expense paid field trip to see the movie at the Satellite Cinemas South DeKalb.

The Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women – mathematician Katherine Johnson, programmer Dorothy Vaughan, and engineer Mary Jackson – who were top NASA scientists between 1943 and 1986 and were instrumental in the program's first successful space missions, including John Glenn’s first flight into space.

Johnson is played by actress Taraji P. Henson; Vaughan by Octavia Spencer; and Jackson by Janelle Monáe. Spencer is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the 2017 Academy Awards taking place Feb. 26 and the movie is nominated for Best Picture.

Chapel Meadows Civic Association and the Creekwood Hills Community Association donated more than $500 to Bob Mathis Elementary on Feb. 21 to pay for the private screening for the students.

Robert Douglas, a past president of the Creekwood Hills association, conceived the idea of raising money for the girls to see the movie. He saw the film in an advanced screening in Atlanta in December.

“I thought all fourth- and fifth-grade girls should be able to see the movie,” said Douglas, who also works as a paraprofessional at Bob Mathis.

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Margot Lee Shetterly

Across the country, groups like the two Decatur civic associations have been raising funds to send girls to see "Hidden Figures," which is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book, "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."

The book, published on Sept. 6, 2016, and the film tell the story of three black women, educated in segregated schools, who worked as human computers for NASA. They calculated space flight trajectories during a time when blacks were denied civil and human rights in America.

Zehline Davis, a retired elementary school teacher and Bob Mathis Elementary volunteer, brought her subdivision, Chapel Meadows into the mix when she heard about the fund raising initiative.

She hasn’t yet seen the movie but plans to chaperone the students to see it in March.

“I would like them to see what they can become, because girls never thought about being engineers and dealing with mathematics,” Davis said Feb. 21. “I think it will be wonderful for them to see this.”.

Davis has something in common with Johnson, the movie's main character. She studied during the 1950s at West Virginia State University, where Johnson (nee Coleman) graduated summa cum laude in 1937 at age 18 with the highest honors in mathematics and French.

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Katherine Johnson

Johnson, now 98, is the only living member of the trio featured in the film.

Bob Mathis Principal Dawn Blackwell said there are numerous benefits to showing the film to students, especially young black girls.

“First, it’s the exposure,” she said Tuesday. “They’re exposed to engineers, to their history, and to a story that basically had not been shared before.”