Inspiring Our Youth to Achieve Great Things
Letter from a female Astronaut
Nicole Stott, former NASA astronaut and Actura CASE space school special advisor encourages girls to continue to strive to reach their personal goals:
I was asked an interesting question recently – what would I write to my “younger self” and I wanted to share some thoughts about it. I would encourage you to continue to strive to reach your personal goals, whether this be at school, in excelling and choosing the subjects that you truly love, or in sport, music or art. It’s amazing how we can take ourselves out of the running from something by just doubting ourselves. It’s a bit of a cliché, but doing what you truly love is a certain way to achieve your best!
I grew up in Clearwater, Florida and I’m thankful for parents who shared what they loved with me. My dad liked to build and fly small planes so my childhood was spent hanging out with my family at the local airport. I found I had the same passion for flying and I wanted to know “how things flew”. I studied and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from the University of Central Florida. I was very fortunate to get a job with NASA as an Engineer at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), helping prepare Space Shuttles for their flights. After about ten years at KSC, I was selected to be an astronaut and moved to Houston and the Johnson Space Center.
I spent twenty-seven years with the NASA Space Agency, having flown two spaceflight missions, including a long-duration mission on the International Space Station (ISS). Throughout my entire career, I have come across some challenges, however. Making the decision to apply to be an astronaut was not an easy one for me. From the time I watched the moon landing as a kid, I always thought that being an “astronaut” was really cool, but it always seemed like a job that only other special people got to do, and it took me a long time before I considered applying. I always also second-guessed that I wasn’t good enough to be an astronaut – “why would they pick me?” I thought.
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The Space for Art Foundation
Now that I’m retired from NASA, I’ve tried to combine the things I love (like art and space) and do my best to share my spaceflight experience with everyone. I founded the Space for Art Foundation with some friends and we are working with children all over the world with space-themed art therapy projects. You can check us out at www.spaceforartfoundation.org
The California Association for STEAM Education (CASE)
I also try to support important educational programs. In particular, the California Association for STEAM Education (CASE) is a wonderful organisation that has pioneered and continues to empower young women from all over the globe to build on their skills in the STEAM field. It is truly exciting for me to witness the joy and exhilaration on the faces of young women as they come through the program and complete their ChallengeX projects, for example. This is a fantastic way to learn how to solve real-world space-related problems and such a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to travel to the other side of the world to engage and participate in the CASE International Space School Programs, in Houston, Texas and also Huntsville, Alabama.
To the students of today, I would encourage you to experience the CASE Space School Program firsthand for yourself. The experience will broaden your horizons and provide you with a new perspective. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly what you want to do in life, and when you are at school you might feel the pressure to choose early and make that decision. I would encourage you to go with your gut and choose the subjects that truly inspire you, and I assure you it will be rewarding to learn things you never thought possible when you give yourself permission to shine.