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The legacy of Apollo 11, more women in science, lives on in Arizona teens

Posted at 11:14 AM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 14:14:15-04

The words are immortal: "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind."

What many people may not know is that extraterrestrial transmission was made possible by Susan Finley. Finley and her all-women team of coders were integral to the success of the Apollo 11 mission.

The lunar landing proved to young girls in the 1960s that a seemingly unattainable goal--a career in science--suddenly was not just a dream but a reality. Fifty years later, that reality lives on.

"I always wanted to work for NASA and do something with space, and engineering is my passion," said 14-year-old Cyra Holmes, a rising freshman at Buckeye's Canyon View High School. She is preparing for 9th grade by serving as a chief science officer for the Arizona Sci-Tech Institute. "We try to go around and bring as much excitement and wonder and curiosity about science and STEM everywhere we go."

That exuberance brought Cyra and 250 other high school students from around the world to ASU -- many of them young girls. Absent from their minds is the previous generation's apprehension that a future in science is a long shot.

"I see myself doing things that people in the lab do, and I get excited," Kassandra Beralia, a 17-year-old high school student from Hermosillo, Mexico, said.

The students are being taught the skills they will need to serve as ambassadors for science. At one point in their lives, these teenagers looked to someone who offered hope, provided inspiration and showed them a path.

Kaci Fankhauser, who coordinates international enrollment for the Arizona Sci-Tech Institute, says the goal is to provide students with the skills they need to go back to their schools and promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives.

Upon leaving the program, students "can do what they want to do and they can help others do what they want to do," Fankhauser said.

Inspiring others as they were inspired -- it is a responsibility the students take seriously.

"There is nothing impossible, they can make it," Beralia said. "A lot of people want to help them. So if they want it, they can do it."

With their secondary, collegiate and professional careers still to come, who knows what will become their moonshot?