LEAVENWORTH — Eighth-grader Guillermo Espinosa dreams of flying to outer space. NASA can’t promise him the moon, but the space agency has invited the Icicle River Middle School student and two other migrant education students from Washington to take a giant leap in that direction.
The students will fly to Huntsville, Ala., June 25 for a week, with all expenses paid, at the U.S. Space Academy, said Alejandro Vergara. He’s the Space Academy coordinator in the Migrant Education Regional Office at the North Central Educational Service District in Wenatchee. Students from the Yakima and Anacortes districts will join Guillermo at the academy.
“I have always dreamed of going to the moon and looking back to Earth to see how it looks,” Guillermo said. At the camp, he hopes to operate a space shuttle simulator and use a zero-gravity chamber.
Only migrant students are eligible for this particular space camp, Vergara said. “These students face a lot of obstacles and hurdles to overcome — moving from school district to school district, poverty, educational gaps and learning a second language.”
Guillermo was recommended by his teachers in January and submitted a three-page handwritten essay to apply for the camp, he said.
“I just plain like math,” Guillermo wrote. “What I like about science is to talk about space and planets.”
Guillermo is the third of six children of Armando and Abigail Espinosa and grew up in a remote orchard near Cashmere, said his father. His family now lives off the Blewett Pass Highway.
His parents came to the Wenatchee Valley from the Mexican state of Michoacán in 1987 and both work in fruit warehouses, Armando Espinosa said. Guillermo began his school career when he was 4 years old at Migrant Head Start in Peshastin.
“He likes everything about school; he’s happy there,” his father said. At night, his son reads in bed until his father turns off the light in his room.
“He’s a very helpful boy,” his father said. In 2003, Guillermo flew alone to Guadalajara, Mexico, and joined his aunt and grandmother on a trip to Rome. He served as the interpreter and got to see Pope John Paul II.
To qualify for the space academy, a student must be age 12 to 14 with a strong academic background, said Guillermo’s English Language Learning teacher, Janie Burke.
Guillermo gets along well with his classmates, said his science teacher, Coco Carlson. “He’s logical in his thinking. He does well with any kind of hands-on learning.”
Principal Ann Spratt credits Guillermo’s strong family for the support they give their children to excel in school, she said.
In his essay, Guillermo wrote, “If I am chosen … people would see that immigrants, like me, can do what they want if they put their minds to it.”
Academy grad hopes to lift off to Mars
By Denise Holley, World staff writer
Marleen Martinez flew to the U.S. Space Academy from Warden Middle School at the end of eighth grade in 1997 and caught a space fever that never went away.
In June 2006, Martinez expects to graduate from the University of Washington with a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, she said.
The Washington State Migrant Education Program has sent students to the space academy since 1991, said Alejandro Vergara, the program’s coordinator. He works at the Migrant Education regional office at the North Central Educational Service District in Wenatchee.
At the weeklong camp in Huntsville, Ala., for migrant students, Martinez donned a bulky astronaut suit that made her hover about a centimeter off the ground, she said. She had to assemble a satellite before her simulated shuttle flight entered its landing phase. Then she performed experiments aboard a shuttle simulator and monitored astronauts’ health as the ship’s doctor.
“When you come back … you’re full of all this energy and you know what you want to do,” Martinez said.
Since she began college, she has spent more summers in space study:
Interstellar chemistry and astrophysics at the Ritter Observatory at the University of Toledo, in Toledo, Ohio, after her first year. Then research at the Synchrotron Radiation Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., where she contributed to a published report.
“That’s when I started to see that I could do a lot more than just astronomy and engineering,” Martinez said. “Physics was starting to call my name.”
In summer 2004, Martinez was selected as a NASA intern and worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., she said. She worked as propulsion lead on a $1 billion mission concept to send three landers to Mars.
“That was the most amazing experience,” Martinez said. “Waking up every morning and going to work for NASA is so incredible there are no words to describe it.”
This summer, Martinez will return to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to work on landing sites for the Phoenix lander, scheduled to launch to Mars in 2007, she said.
“It definitely helps out my goal of being the first person to walk on Mars,” Martinez said.
Denise Holley can be reached at 664-7148 or by e-mail at email@example.com