When Amanda Skinner got a grant from the North Dakota Space Grant program to attend training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, she hoped it would give her students more opportunities, and it did.
Skinner, a science teacher at Williston High School, brought back information about the NASA STEM Enhancement in Earth Sciences program. The competitive summer internship program gives high school students a chance to work alongside NASA scientists.
There are 40 spots available, and about 400 students apply each year. From Skinner’s physics class, five students applied.
One got in — making her one of only a few dozen in the nation to take part in the internship program this summer.
Maren Bleyl is a junior at WHS. Bleyl, who moved to Williston two years ago from Utah, liked the idea of the internship program as soon as she heard about it.
“I thought it was a really good opportunity to expand my education,” she said.
The fact that she’s interested in aerospace engineering, something the program covers, sealed the deal.
She’s looking forward to going to Texas for two weeks in July to work with scientists doing research.
“It’s good for me to explore something I could potentially make my career,” she said.
In a letter of recommendation Skinner wrote, she praised Bleyl for her intelligence, her work ethic and her ability to work with others.
“Maren is a hard-working, bright student who always considers the feelings of others,” Skinner wrote. “She is a good facilitator of discussions and often brings outside resources to share with her peers. Maren is very well-rounded, and her outside hobbies and experiences in athletics and activities have helped her build her strong teamwork skills. In my classroom, she performs well on all group tasks and assignments, and I believe she would be a valuable asset to any research team.”
Skinner wrote that Bleyl is involved in multiple activities at WHS, but that she doesn’t let those get in the way of her work.
“She does not want to be left behind or left out of anything that happens in the classroom,” Skinner wrote.
Bleyl said she really enjoys learning about physics, in part because she likes figuring out the solutions to problems.
“I like it because it’s kind of like a puzzle,” she said.
Skinner is proud Bleyl is heading off to the internship this summer, and proud of what that selection might mean for other students. She said she hopes it inspires others to apply in the future.
“They have picked one of us,” Skinner said. “We are that good.”