Students from various high schools across the Rio Grande Valley received a galactic treat on Saturday, July 16 when NASA engineer Humberto Sanchez gave the keynote speech at the TexPrep Closing Ceremony.
The Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program (TexPREP) aims to give middle and high school students with an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers an experience over a 6-week summer session that helps strengthen their skills in these areas.
Sanchez, who is a Harlingen native, works as an engineering collaborate for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He’s been with NASA for 36 years and has now been tasked with planning the next mission to the moon; from ground operation to launch and landing. Sanchez, who comes from humble beginnings, understands the importance of giving students early opportunities to prepare them for success.
“We try to do collaborations with universities, and mentor students for senior capstones. NASA needs modern information for future space missions, like potentially living on the moon,” said Sanchez. “The most fun thing for me is collaborating with students.”
While high school students have some time before they head to college, Sanchez says that it’s never too early to nurture the interest that someone has in science and engineering.
“Not only do we do senior capstones, but NASA has high school internships. A lot of students come in throughout the summer,” he said. “We give them several problems to solve that are given to NASA employees, so the collaboration there is very beneficial.”
Harlingen High School student, Bianca Lopez, 14, appreciates the opportunity given to her and her peers, and emphasizes the importance of Sanchez coming back home to motivate the next generation.
“TexPREP gave me the push that I was looking for,” she said. “I enjoyed it a lot, and I love that Mr. Sanchez came back to talk to us. A lot of people from small towns may think that it’s impossible to go out and make a difference, but he did it. He made a name for himself. If he can make a difference, so can I.”
Studying the stars may seem like a long shot to some, but Sanchez wants to make sure that no matter how humble your beginning is, you can definitely achieve your life goals.
“I worked three nights at a pizza joint while going through school. Don’t let financial reasons deter you,” he strongly stated. “You’re as smart as anybody else.”
For more information on NASA’s internship opportunities, visit www.intern.NASA.gov.
Texas State Technical College’s TexPREP program prides itself on giving students a fun and productive summer. For more information about the program, call the TSTC Center for Science and Math Education at 956-364-4125.