By Sarah Sikandar
Signal Staff Writer
In honor of Black History Month in February, Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, recognized several prominent community leaders who have made a difference in the lives of families and students living in the 21st Senate District.
From Santa Clarita, 20-year-old Niamani Knight – an award-winning philanthropist, education advocate, and the founder of STREAM Global Innovations – received a certificate of recognition from Wilk’s representative in a ceremony at City Hall with her mother and mentor Nikia Richards by her side.
The journey hasn’t been without “lots of tears and lots of No’s,” as Knight puts it. Initially looking for a future in basketball, Knight changed her goals when she found out about the community program Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Lancaster that mentored middle school students to make products to sell.
At the age of 13, Knight was selected to participate in the program. She was more interested in creating an experience for herself and her peers, rather than a product. She realized the challenges faced by the students to achieve success.
Instead of producing a product to sell in the YEA program, she created a platform for students and businesses to showcase their talents and discuss possibilities. In 2015, she founded S.T.R.E.A.M. Kids Expo, which emphasizes Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Manufacturing.
“I wanted to see how I could make an impact in the community. I wanted a center where students could come in and learn about companies and careers. My parents told me that wasn’t possible at 13.” But that didn’t deter the young girl from pursuing her goals.
Wilk, in a prepared statement, called Niamani an “amazing young leader, wise beyond her years.”
“This 20-year-old’s determination and can-do attitude is truly an inspiration, especially to the thousands of youths she’s mentored over the years. How many teenagers can say that they created a nonprofit organization and have partnered with some global companies such as Amazon and Lockheed Martin? California needs amazing leaders like Niamani. Her future looks bright and families in Senate District 21 will benefit from her commitment and love for this community. Hats off to Niamani. It is my honor to recognize her during Black History Month,” he said in the statement.
Niamani’s mother believes in letting kids dream big. “Every parent wants their child to have more access and opportunity than they had.”
Knight envisions a future with memorable experiences for kids, schools and communities. “There’s always going to be more students to serve. The goal is to make a legacy, where we continue impacting and really creating a space where diversity and access and every experience that we do are the norm, no matter what ZIP code that you live in.”
Knight hopes to meet the former first lady Michelle Obama one day. “I absolutely love her. I love how she has been able to help shed light for Black girls like me to continue in our path. And feel OK to step out and take a leap of faith.”