New scholarship program sending Pasqua Yaqui girls to Space Camp
Feather masks on the tables in the VIP section of the Taking Up Space event at R Bar, Feb. 15. The scholarship program will send four girls to Alabama for Space Camp.
On Wednesday evening, the new Taking Up Space scholarship program held a fundraising and awareness event at The R Bar in downtown Tucson.
Taking Up Space is a new scholarship program that sends middle school girls from the Pascua Yaqui tribe to Space Camp and encourages them to pursue career and education paths in science, technology, engineering, and math. The program is part of nonprofit organization Time in Cosmology, which aims to encourage the study of time in the fields of physics and cosmology.
The goal of the scholarship is to send four middle school girls from the Pascua Yaqui tribe to Space Camp every summer for three years, all expenses paid. A total of 12 girls will benefit from the scholarship over the course of the next five years.
TiC Director Czarina Salido expressed how important the program is for STEM education on the reservation. “They’re going to be talking to the rest of the girls and giving a presentation of what they learned,” Salido said. “We’re also hoping to have a video diary for them so they can record their adventures out there.”
Salido mentors students on the Pascua Yaqui reservation, visiting weekly to do science demonstrations and field trips. The students will also be making science fair projects this year.
Taking Up Space’s Brooke Balla also spoke of the importance of STEM education both in and out of the classroom. Balla explained that, by coordinating with science leaders and groups in the community, Taking Up Space helps to provide an enriching and fun STEM experience for children on the Pascua Yaqui reservation.
Members of New Orleans funk band Galactic joined with local scientists and artists at the event before performing at the Rialto Theatre later that evening. Large arrays of space art decorated the venue courtesy of local artists and a telescope was set up outside by a local astronomer for event-goers to view the night sky.
Held every summer in Huntsville, AL, Space Camp will give the girls an opportunity to participate in NASA mission simulations, develop team building skills on ropes courses and possibly even meet an astronaut.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce despite representing half of the U.S. college-educated workforce. This underrepresentation of women in STEM is more evident among racial and ethnic minority groups, including Native Americans.
Taking Up Space aims to address this deficit by informing Pascua Yaqui girls about education and career paths in STEM and exposing them to opportunities like Space Camp during their formative middle school years.
Salido was inspired to get involved when she went to the space camp herself last summer. “It’s so much fun and it’s so empowering,” Salido said of the program. “I hope they come back really inspired and want to get into STEM.”
Taking Up Space will be starting with the Pascua Yaqui tribe this year, but the organization aims to eventually extend to other Native American nations in Arizona.
Follow Henry Carson on Twitter.