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Student Aims For The Stars

Not many high school students can say they know how to fly a plane, build a heat shield or act as mission control for a flight. But these are just some of the skills Hicksville High School junior Veronica Ann Morrish picked up at the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy, an international program that encourages students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Morrish applied for the prestigious program last year and was selected based on her academic merit and two essay prompts. She says she has always loved the mystery of space.  

“I always found it fascinating growing up,” Morrish said. “It’s such a great unknown, we have no idea what’s up there. It would be such an amazing opportunity to actually go up to space and explore.”

At the beginning of March, Morrish flew down to join 304 students from 38 countries at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alamaba. Every day of the weeklong program, she engaged in different activities such as shuttle missions, weightlessness training, simulated jet-fighter pilot training, scenario-based space-walking missions, and designing, building and testing rockets.

Morrish says one of her favorite activities was the flight simulation, where she got to learn how to fly a plane just like a real pilot.

“They taught you how to use everything and you got to fly around and take off like you were in an actual plane. It was honestly the most amazing experience, it was so cool,” Morrish said. “I was one of the three people who didn’t crash,” she notes with pride.

Morrish also got to hear from and meet with top scientists, engineers and former astronauts, including Robert “Hoot” Gibson.

“He was really inspirational,” says Morrish. “He inspired me to work harder to do what I want to do with my life.”

Before the training, Morrish had been leaning toward a career in psychology but now says she would like to become an engineer or pilot. She says that her week at the leadership academy taught her valuable leadership and speech skills, as well as helped her form new friendships with other space-loving teens from around the world.

“I really grew as a person. It was an amazing opportunity and it changed my life,” she said.