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CMSD students chat with NASA astronaut in Earth-to-space call (Photo gallery)


Photos courtesy of NASA Glenn Research Center



Students entering high school can feel bombarded with advice about their future careers, so it takes someone special to make it stick.

Someone like Serena Auñón-Chancellor, for example, a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station, which is suspended 240 miles above the Earth and circling the globe at 175,000 mph. A select group of incoming ninth-graders had the opportunity to chat with Auñón-Chancellor about her job Tuesday during an Earth-to-space call at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

The trip was organized by True2U, a yearlong districtwide mentoring program that helps eighth-graders explore their values, interests and strengths and get a new perspective on career options from their mentors. Through an interview process, approximately 40 students are selected for the six-week True2U Summer Leadership Academy to continue to develop their leadership skills and assist in True2U curriculum evaluation.

About 30 of these students made the trip to NASA Glenn and took turns asking Auñón-Chancellor questions through a live video feed. Their questions ranged from the personal to the scientific: How long did it take to build the ISS? Why did you decide to go to outer space? How do you deal with loneliness aboard the space station? Who inspired you?

Watch a Facebook Live recording of the conversation

Auñón-Chancellor shared some of the fun part about living on the ISS -- even demonstrating a slow-motion flip made possible by the free fall conditions -- along with the less pleasant circumstances, like having to turning her own urine into potable drinking water.

She also offered career advice based on her own experiences in the demanding, competitive field of space science.

“If I had a nickel for everytime someone told me that it was nearly impossible to get into the astronaut corps and the chances were very low, I’d be a pretty rich woman,” she said. “But there are people that know you and love you, like your family and friends, who will support you no matter what. Those are the people, when you look back, who really inspire you.”

The students heard from other experts back down on Earth during a panel discussion with young professionals at NASA Glenn that included two CMSD graduates: James F. Rhodes High School graduate and research instrumentation apprentice Rafael Mercado and Whitney M. Young Leadership Academy graduate and electrical test engineer Jerry Mobley.

Mobley began as an engineering intern at NASA Glenn during his sophomore year of high school. He turned that internship into a full-time job in the same department. Mobley said he was excited to have the opportunity to meet younger students who come from a similar background.

“It was inspirational for me to be able to connect with them and pique their interest and give them some of the experiences that I’ve been through growing up and attending CMSD schools,” he said.

One student in the summer program, Cheyenne, just finished eighth grade at Douglas MacArthur Girls’ Leadership Academy and is headed to Cleveland Early College High School in the fall. She enjoyed hearing about Auñón-Chancellor’s career path and the array of jobs available at NASA in STEM fields and beyond.

“It was cool to hear her feedback, and it felt like she was actually talking to me, even though she’s in space and I’m just down here on Earth,” Cheyenne said.

The NASA Glenn Research Center staff and Auñón-Chancellor made it clear that even the sky isn’t a limit for CMSD students aspiring to pursue careers related to space science, especially with the opportunity-rich NASA Glenn Research Center right in their hometown.

Auñón-Chancellor, asked by a student if there were any plans to go to Mars, said:

“I am certainly too old to be going to Mars, but I would not be surprised if one of you guys sitting in the room right now will be heading out there.”

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