We all know NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Space City infrastructure of the Johnson Space Center, but for a moment, I like to pretend that NASA has a new acronym: Never Assume Someone’s Ability. This summer, the Easter Seals Greater Houston High School High Tech Program was again honored to have interns working inside the Johnson Space Center alongside college interns, engineers, and even rocket scientists. After meeting with one High School High Tech Summer Intern, I learned that Matthew’s position was far from most adolescent summer jobs.
Matthew was tasked with developing, testing, and implementing an inter-department network for video conferences. This system would allow the various programs of NASA to communicate in real-time from distant locations. In addition, it would be secure from any external eavesdropping to safeguard future works and works-in-progress. HSHT Coordinator Yvonne Kelly commented that when Matthew first began attending High School High Tech activities, he was a different person—he was shy, barely spoke and refrained from eye contact. Now, he was sitting up tall in his chair and energetically recalling his NASA job duties. Matthew’s mother added to this assessment by stating: “Matthew has really come out of his shell.” She continued to tell me how the family was uncertain about Matthew’s future—whether he would be able to attend college or even obtain and maintain a job. Teary-eyed, and with a mother’s sincerity, she thanked High School High Tech for providing Matthew the opportunity to gain exposure, experience, and confidence.
So it is fitting that this summer, NASA, Johnson Space Center welcomes the installment of Space Shuttle Independence which will be permanently displayed atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747. I gaze in awe at the shuttle perched upon the much larger 747 and I see Matthew. I see Matthew propped up by his family, his community, and by this opportunity through the High School High Tech program. I see Matthew, with his new-found confidence, soaring to his own independence. I see Matthew and I think: Never Assume Someone’s Ability.