BY Amanda Sotelo
It is an honor being invited to NASA, but getting a second invite is even better. This is what Texas State Technical College student Saul Pizano recently found out.
The Harlingen native has just returned from Johnson Space Center in Houston where he served as a student assistant for NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars project (NCAS).
“I never expected to be presented with this teaching opportunity,” said Pizano. “When I got the call I couldn’t contain my excitement. There was a lot of jumping and screaming.”
It was just last year that Pizano had been selected as a scholar for the program, joining nearly 304 students from across the United States to be part of the five-week program that culminated with a week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Pizano was the only student from TSTC.
“My dream is to work at NASA. When I’m there it feels like home,” he said. “I’ve had a fascination with the (space science) field since I was a little boy and the paths I am choosing seem to be leading me there.”
Only two NASA scholar alumni get chosen to return for a second year as student assistants. The 22-year-old’s offer letter points out that Pizano’s leadership, communication and teamwork skills demonstrated during last year’s on-site experience impressed the selection committee.
As a student assistant, Pizano led close to 50 students in this year’s NCAS project in engineering and robotics competitions, activities and events.
“I had such a different experience this time around,” he said. “I already knew what to expect so I was able to focus on the details to make this an unforgettable experience for these students. Seeing everyone work together and bond was incredible.”
Pizano added that his goal as a student assistant was to inspire the dream of NASA in others.
“Sometimes when you go to a ’college’ not a ’university’ you think something like NASA isn’t possible, but this experience has shown me that it can be a reality if you work hard and really want it,” he said. “I hope my story resonated with some.”
Pizano is already a TSTC graduate with an associate degree in Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics and will get three more associate degrees in Engineering, Math and Physics this year.
He has also begun applying for NASA engineering summer internships at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“I finally feel like my life is reaching its potential,” he said. “I won’t stop working until I make my dream come true.”
For more information on the programs offered at TSTC, visit tstc.edu.