OMAHA – Sandra Jones, a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Elementary Education major, remembers getting the call for her final interview. She was on the road with friends, headed to Nebraska’s Indian Cave State Park.
“When NASA calls, you answer,” Jones said.
The group pulled over, and Jones did her best to explain why she was interested in a NASA internship, with four of her closest friends listening in.
Her friends said she did well, but it would take a few hours until Jones learned what NASA thought. As the group hiked in the park, the congratulatory email arrived. She was in.
“I am pretty sure I screamed and started crying before calling my parents, who were so proud.”
That was last fall break. Today, Jones is in Houston, starting her internship at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
Jones, a senior with a passion for science, says it’s been a thrilling experience.
As a first-generation college student who overcame challenging circumstances to get to where she is today, Jones tries to take advantage of every opportunity for growth that she can, opportunities like becoming one of NASA’s Microgravity University for Educators Interns.
The internship program provides a comprehensive curriculum based around microgravity, the condition that causes astronauts to float in space. The experience is geared toward education. Before Jones is finished, she’ll learn how to draw on her experience for lessons and community outreach activities. As a future educator, Jones hopes she can use her time at NASA to encourage more students to take an interest in science, particularly girls.
“The sooner students get excited about science, the more likely they are to stick with it and ultimately pursue a career in these fields,” Jones said. “Girls as a whole are underrepresented in STEM fields, and I hope to show girls in my classroom and the community that science is cool, rewarding, and something they can go into and be successful with.”
I hope to show girls in my classroom and the community that science is cool, rewarding, and something they can go into and be successful with.
Eventually, she’d like to pursue a doctorate in STEM education. Where to after that? Maybe teaching at the college level, working on curriculum development, or heading back to NASA.
“Ultimately, I believe that access to quality education can truly be life changing and I myself am proof of that,” Jones said. “I hope to inspire others to recklessly pursue their passions and aid in their success as much as possible."
For now, Jones is focused on making the most out of this opportunity, which may go a little longer than originally planned. On her first day, NASA offered her a summer internship in the STEM on Station program, another opportunity that Jones doesn’t want to pass up.
Interested in education? UNO’s College of Education offers a diverse range of majors and programs.