Written by Allen Easterling, a rising senior from Maryland, who received a Robert Sheppard Leadership award for his exemplary efforts and leadership in his community. In his winning essay, he explained how his public school experience, coupled with knowing an astronaut formed the foundations of his community service efforts. From his essay:
"At my inner-city high school, 70% of students are enrolled in federally subsidized meals, 80% are minorities, and at least as many have the abilities but not the financial means, experience, or knowledge to attain what they are capable of achieving. And as a four-year volunteer at Saturday Morning Science, a program of Towson University’s Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science, I have seen former astronaut and Academy Director Dr. Donald Thomas and scores of teachers bring students from the same demographic, trying to show the values of pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers, trying to inspire them to reach further than what they see in their everyday lives and away from their high-paced, immediate gratification videos and games.
These experiences, Dr. Thomas’s generous spirit, and my own interest in space led me to initiate, develop, and fundraise for the Maryland Space Scholarship: To foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics via the exciting, hands-on experience of Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama by providing financial assistance to motivated and deserving Maryland high school students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend. Having attended camp twice, I know that it is a 6-day experience that lasts forever. Training on complicated mechanical engineering simulators is the best way to learn about physics and mechanics; running a mission with others from around the world and trying to (hypothetically) keep the team (literally) ‘alive’ is the best way to develop teamwork skills and build international friendships; and doing everything while having a blast is the best way to motivate kids to imagine what they never imagined for themselves before. By being the youth who both shares the experience and is the founder, I hope to build one, small bridge that will encourage others to cross—and take more people with them. While the number of winners is few, the scholarship’s requirement to return and share experiences within the community broadens its impact on disadvantaged youths."
Allen went on to explain how he is putting into practice the fundraising, grant writing, and organizational skills he learned from his Space Scholarship toward other efforts, from his teaching of karate to young children (he holds a black belt) to ensuring that every member of his school club is able to participate in the 2015 international trip, regardless of income. He also discussed the more personal discoveries he made through his community services efforts:
"Each and every one of my volunteer efforts has also taught me how difficult it is to make even a small dent in improving either a local issue or a larger one aimed at improving a situation of serious social inequity. I can think of no better training ground for the career I plan in international relations and policy—a pursuit in which I can benefit a truly significant number of people."