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Center Snapshot: Sarah Pauls
Sarah Pauls

Image Above: Sarah Pauls. If you know Sarah, it's probably because of the LARSS program. Since she began working with LARSS, more than 1,300 student interns have participated in the program. While Pauls relishes the opportunity to make a difference in so many lives, her passion for education and her commitment to her community run even deeper.

By: Courtney Ricks, LARSS intern

For Sarah Pauls the true reward of volunteering comes from the knowledge that she is helping others.

"Sometimes you feel as if you don't have that much to give, but just giving your time can be enough," she said.

Pauls is the Administrative Assistant to NASA Langley's Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) program. Since being hired in 2006, she has dedicated her time to the student interns on center and helps with the application and selection process, event planning and student housing for each LARSS session.

But her involvement didn't just begin with LARSS.

Pauls started working as a volunteer for the Office of Education. There, she provided input data for instructional videos and often attended teacher conferences to promote NASA educational materials.

Her commitment to education continues at Booker Elementary School in Hampton, Va., where she volunteers as a classroom aide.

"I always said, when I was growing up, that I wanted to work with students," said Pauls. "I like working with kids, but I like the volunteer aspect of working with kids because it's not something I'm getting paid for."

But the classroom, LARSS program and volunteering weren't enough to quench her desire to help and educate.

She is also a member of the school's Watch Moms of Marvelous Students (MOMS), a program that allows parents to spend a day as mentors in order to contribute to classroom learning. In the fall, she will play an active role in fundraising and planning school events as a board member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

"You work hand-in-hand with the teachers as a parent, because education is the most important thing," she said. "If the teachers need something, I feel it's the parents' job to step up and help."

Pauls promotes learning through her job on center by helping to schedule seminar speakers to educate participating scholars on different career paths. These presentations encourage networking and introduce interns to the diverse opportunities at NASA.

Pauls extends her passion for education to her students by helping the program coordinator schedule intimate luncheon settings for networking. These lunches allow the staff to gain a closer relationship with the interns and receive feedback on the program.

"We always tell the students to stay in touch, and a lot of the ones we get really close to -- they do," she said.

Pauls' service efforts were recognized this year by Hampton City Schools, which presented her with the 2012 Title 1 Promoter of Excellence Award. This award is given to select parents that stand out as partners in the classroom to both students and teachers.

"I want to be involved in my children's education, and that was my way of being able to help," she explained, "I felt it was my duty, so it was really nice to be acknowledged for it."

Her involvement in the community continues outside of the school system. When the youth pastor at her church moved away, she offered to take over as the leader. She also works in children's church as a teacher.

"I just keep adding more and more," she said with a laugh. "My daughter is a Girl Scout. Her troop leader is having to back out so now I'm going to be her troop leader."

Her volunteer efforts are extensive and often based around her children. She rarely commits to events that her kids cannot attend.

"My children are my world," Pauls said. "I don't do much without them."

It is her close connection to her family that originally brought Pauls to Virginia.

When her nephew was born with medical complications, she relocated from her home in North Carolina in order to lend a hand.

"I wanted to be around him because I wanted to be in his life," she explained, "and I was actually his babysitter for the first year of his life."

Her sister and nephew eventually returned to North Carolina, but Pauls remained local in order to stay active with the LARSS program.

Since she began working with the program, more than 1,300 student interns have participated in LARSS. Pauls makes an effort to continue her hands-on work with the students after they leave the center.

"I love working with people that I feel I can make a difference in their life, whether it be the LARSS students or the youth group students," she said.

And for Pauls, it seems to have made all the difference in her world, too.

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman