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July 17, 2001

Victoria Kushnir

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-0176 or 650/604-9000

e-mail: vkushnir@mail.arc.nasa.gov

RELEASE: 01-49AR

AFRICAN-AMERICAN YOUTH ENCOURAGED TO ‘REACH FOR THE STARS’

This summer, 22 young African-American women from low-income Bay Area families are attending U.S. Space Camp California to have fun, expand their horizons and get hands-on experience in science and math.

The Space Camp scholarship program for at-risk minority youth is the brainchild of Sheila Johnson-Heacock of NASA’s Ames Research Center in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. The program is sponsored by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. (NCBW), Silicon Valley chapter. The goal is to inspire and encourage female minority youth to stay in school and explore opportunities available to them in the fields of science and technology.

"We are giving young ladies a window into their future, showing them the great possibilities that are open to them," said Johnson-Heacock, who is in her second year as local president of NCBW. "The U.S. Space Camp program is geared toward teamwork and education; it inspires young people and gives them a better understanding of what is available to them."

The program reaches girls ages 9 to 12 from disadvantaged and traditional homes. They will participate in an intensive five-day training regimen. This will include performing exercises on various simulators, designing space shuttle missions, visiting Ames’ vertical motion simulator and conducting scientific experiments. The girls will have a chance to not only flip and tumble in an almost-weightless environment and to fly a simulated mission to space, they also will learn details about space exploration and what it takes ‘to reach for the stars.’ The young women will be housed at U.S. Space Camp’s ‘space habitat’ and sample astronaut food.

"NASA’s goal, as well as that of the NCBW, is to empower women and encourage them to become more involved in the space program," said Johnson-Heacock. "By sending these young girls to Space Camp, we hope to show the younger generation that the sky is no longer the limit," she concluded.

To interview one of the girls, reporters should contact Sheila Johnson-Heacock at:

(650) 604-5054 or <sajohnson@mail.arc.nasa.gov>

U.S. Space Camp California is a non-profit organization co-located at, but operated independently from, both NASA and Ames Research Center.

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