RoundupReads Starport Scholarship a Constant Despite Turbulent Year

Starport Scholarship a Constant Despite Turbulent Year

by Catherine Ragin Williams | 2020-08-04

Change is often the only constant, but there’s another we can add to the list: the Starport Scholarship program. Even in 2020, a year as unforgettable as it has been difficult, living in the midst of a pandemic has taught many of us a lot of shared lessons.

“While it has been a tough year for Starport financially, it was important that we continued in our tradition to provide this very important outreach activity to deserving students,” said Jose Garcia, director of Procurement at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and chair of the scholarship selection committee. “This scholarship signifies normalcy during a very unusual time in all of our lives, and this provides hope for our local community and future leaders.”

In pre-pandemic times, the NASA Golf Tournament hosted by Starport supplements the scholarship awards. Fun on the green typically translates to more green — of the monetary variety — for aspiring STEM students.

“We decided to move forward with awarding the Starport Scholarship this year despite the fact that the golf tournament had to be canceled due to the coronavirus,” said Starport Director Debbie Denton. “For the past 12 years, the golf tournament generated the revenue necessary to fund the scholarships, so the funding this year is coming from the Starport reserves and generous donors like the NASA Alumni League. But, given that so many other things have ground to a halt, this was one thing we could do to support the Johnson team.”

Two scholarships were awarded — one to a civil service dependent and one to a contractor dependent. A variety of factors went into their selection, including data like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, extracurricular activities, and a narrative essay depicting what they plan to do with their education.

“The winners had a great academic standing, great community outreach and a very personal and moving essay,” Garcia noted.

From left, Starport Scholarship awardees Erin Rogers and Holly Wenzel.

For Erin Rogers and Holly Wenzel, their educational journey will go beyond absorbing the turbulence of this moment in time — for they have big dreams, and their awarded Starport Scholarship funds will help them move forward with schooling and, thus, the next chapters of their young adult lives.

Erin Rogers, daughter of Kathleen Rogers with NASA, plans to attend the University of Texas at Dallas and pursue a degree in biochemistry — and will do it while also playing volleyball for the school. Her career path is, coincidentally, very relevant to current world events.

“I am planning on a career in the research-based medical field to hopefully discover and create cures to diseases,” Erin Rogers said.

Holly Wenzel, daughter of KBR team member Janis Clutter, will attend Texas A&M University at College Station in the fall, majoring in forensic and investigative science with an emphasis on the science track.

“After receiving my Bachelor of Science degree, I plan on attending medical school,” Wenzel said. Her plans thereafter include applying for a residency in diagnostic radiology and later completing a one-year fellowship in interventional radiology. “I would eventually like to practice medicine and perform research at Johnson Space Center to support the space program.” 

While the medical field is attracting at least two motivated and bright individuals, there are many students who are more adrift than set in their plans, perhaps wondering how to pursue a future when families are struggling with an altered economic reality because of the coronavirus. Of course, even our scholarship awardees would agree that putting yourself out there is the first step.

“Many people fear failure, so they will not apply for fear of not getting the scholarship,” Wenzel said. “My advice is to apply anyways, and answer the questions from the scholarship application with your goals in mind. What do I want to accomplish? How will I accomplish that goal? If you do those things … even if you don’t get the scholarship, you will have thought about what you want to achieve and set those wheels in motion.”

For more on the Starport Scholarship program, click here.