Thursday, February 25, 2010

CIAA Education Day 2010

Wednesday was about dreaming. Not day-dreaming, but the kind that will open up doors to colleges, universities, careers and most importantly futures -- maybe even with NASA.

Hundreds of middle and high school students from Charlotte packed the area's Convention Center ballroom on Wednesday as part of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's (CIAA) 2010 Education Day, sponsored by NASA.

NASA astronaut Leland Melvin speaks to middle school students at CIAA Education Day 2010

The CIAA, based in Hampton, Va., is America's oldest historically black college and university conference, and is made up of 11 colleges and universities along the Eastern Seaboard, including Chowan University, Elizabeth City State University, Virginia State University, and Shaw University, among others.

he morning was geared to inspire students, especially middle schoolers, who might not otherwise think about higher education opportunities, or careers, so early in the game.

Pumping up the students for the days events was Bowie State University from Maryland whose marching band, mascot, cheerleaders and dance squad had students engaged from the get-go.

Charles Ramie, a senior physics major at VSU, mingled in the crowd, helping students find their way and stopping to get a photograph with Melvin before the program began.

Ramie, who is considering interning at NASA said, "I think it's fundamental to reach middle school students when it comes to their future. I wish someone would have told me to get my stuff together when I was that young.

Astronaut Leland Melvin speaks to hundreds of middle school students during the NASA-sponsored CIAA Education Day in Charlotte, N.C. on Wed., Feb. 24. Director of Education, Roger Hathaway, and Director of University Affairs, Thom Pinelli, both from NASA's Langley Research Center look on. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

"I really think this event will help push them to pursue higher education," he continued.

For Charlotte teachers, Education Day meant giving their students an opportunity to think toward the future and at the same time to give them the opportunity to learn more about NASA.

"I hope this event will create a sense of urgency and will spark the students' interest," said Tuere Forbes, a guidance counselor with Southwest Middle School in Charlotte. "Hopefully this experience will get the students to take what they are involved in more seriously.

Roger Hathaway, director of education at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., gave the opening remarks. He told students: "This could be your first day to realize your dreams. The nation's workforce is counting on you. We need students like you, doing the math, doing the science."

Astronaut Leland Melvin, who got his start in fiber optic sensors at NASA Langley, was the guest speaker. Melvin took the stage and mesmerized students with his life's journey. His message, "Live your dreams."

Virginia State University students Jaren Kelly, Ta'Keisha Martin and Charles Ramey buddy up with Astronaut Leland Melvin during the NASA-sponsored CIAA Education Day in Charlotte, N.C. VSU students were on-hand hoping to inspire middle schoolers to pursue higher education. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

From football player to chemist to the NFL to graduate school, Melvin had quite the ride to becoming an astronaut.

He urged students to believe in themselves and to "live your dream" no matter what it is.

"Whether you want to be an astronaut, lawyer, college student, or Ph.D., you can do anything," he said.

Under President Obama's Educate to Innovate campaign, it is NASA's goal to increase the number of scientists, mathematicians and engineers, with an emphasis on broadening the participation of minority students.

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