Outreach at the Ethiopian Community Center

NASA/BMSIS Young Scientist Program participant Mastewal Abate engaged 10 high school students and 3 college students at the San Francisco Ethiopian Community Center. Mastewal’s engagement was part of her Communications requirements for the NASA/BMSIS Young Scientist Program. BMSIS is continuously committed to engaging the public in the wonders of Space Exploration and the Earth System. The NASA/BMSIS Young Scientist Program in Space Biosciences at NASA Ames continues this tradition by engaging the local community in the vicinity of NASA’s Silicon Valley center.

Public speaking is one of my greatest fears and a skill I find very challenging to master. My background has had a huge influence in limiting my exposure to this skill. The community and the culture I came from do not support women publically speaking, and presenting their ideas in any public setting. Females tend to be more respected when they speak less and are reserved. As a result of this cultural upbringing, and wrongful perspective on women, public speaking became a major obstacle and continues to be a struggle. Since public speaking is one of the requirements for my internship with BMSIS, I have a responsibility to do it, whether I like it or not. With the BMSIS program, I received training on how to present, and with the help of my mentors, I prepared a public presentation.

I went to the Ethiopian Community Church in San Francisco to reach out to the youth group, and share my experience about my internship at NASA. It was a small group that included high school and college students.

My presentation was mainly focused on the internship opportunities that NASA provides for high school and college students. Most of the youths had little information and awareness about internships. For example, one thought they had was that internships are only available during the senior college year or after graduation. During my presentation, I recommended that they start their internship as soon as possible, whether they are currently in high school, or attending college, so that they will have more experience and work exposure. We discussed the advantages of internships, such as building resume, gaining work experience, increasing professional network, developing prospective career path, learning new skills, and other benefits.

In addition, some of the students thought that most of NASA employees are astronauts. However, after my presentation, they were impressed and surprised when I told them about the other professionals, fields, and sites that encompass NASA.

I informed them that there are other professionals and researchers working at NASA as well, such as biologists, physicists, and chemists. Some laboratories at NASA centers are figuring out how life started on the earth. Engineers are also a part of NASA, and they design and build airplanes and spacecrafts.

The overall presentation gave them a hope and motivation to go out and try the opportunities of working in their dream companies like NASA. I had a great time with the youth group. I am hoping that they have learned important information and awareness that will help them achieve their dream.