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    HomeRocking YoungMelanny and Alejandra: Reaching the stars with your hands.  

    Melanny and Alejandra: Reaching the stars with your hands.  

    Two of the young crew members of “She Is” Foundation, created by Nadia Sanchez in Colombia, tell us their story of empowerment and how they reached the NASA Space Center in Houston, thanks to the foundation and the sponsoring organization: Ecopetrol. 

    Alejandra and Melanny were born in two small towns in Colombia: Saravena and Uribia. They are only 13 and 16 years old, but despite their young age and what they have lived through in these conflict zones of the country, they have already fulfilled their dream of seeing the stars so closely, which has motivated them to move forward to focus on their dreams and goals. They are characterized by their energy, joy, resilience, and perseverance, you can tell by the way they express themselves and tell their stories. 

    “I admire the founder of the “She Is” Foundation, Nadia Sanchez, I would like to be like her in the future. She is very beautiful, it was great to meet her in person, her personality is so simple, and I admire her. In spite of how difficult her life and her childhood was, because she told us her story, she was able to fulfill her dream of going to the most important universities in the United States and she is also making it possible for many girls to go into space and visit the NASA Space Center”. 

    Alejandra said excited and inspired, with the smile on her face which distinguished her. Nadia Sanchez and the “She Is” foundation have inspired and empowered many Colombian girls and young women, helping them to break stereotypes and giving them the opportunity to learn that they can be anything they want to be and become interested in STEM careers. 

    “Nadia is a person to admire, she was the one who inspired me and opened my eyes telling me that I can do it, that I can be a leader, that I can be strong and that I can be myself despite all the conflicts we have. I would love to study aerospace engineering, and when I arrived at the Space Center, I was very proud to meet engineer Diana Trujillo, listening to her talks was inspiring, and being able to meet her in person was also very exciting”. This is how Melanny excitedly recounted her experience of meeting one of the Aerospace Engineers she most admires. 

    How did you find out about the She Is Foundation? 

    Alejandra: I didn’t even know that the “She Is” foundation existed, I found out on the last day of registration for the program because I am in a project called “Valiente” of Profamilia. They, with the support of the Canadian embassy, and seeing that I am a girl who leads initiatives, who speaks a lot, in public, and is very extroverted… well, they thought I had the right profile, so they told my mom. I was in class, so she was the one who made all the arrangements because she thought: “Aleja is going to really like this, she really likes science, and she is going to thank me for doing this”. And so it was, I really do. So, she went to look for me that day, and told me the whole process, and thanks to that I was able to meet the foundation and fulfill my dream of going to space. 

    Melanny: I found out about it because one day I was with my parents watching TV and spending family time, and they were talking about the “She Is” initiative. So, I got excited and told my mom: “Look mommy, a place where they take girls to NASA Space Center, I want to go! Then we found out about the applications, and I said: “I’m not missing this opportunity, and whoever gets it, gets it”, so I sent in the application, and a week later they told me I was pre-selected. I really went crazy that day because of the excitement I felt, then at school, at a flag raising ceremony, all the cameras were there, they showed me the video and told me “congratulations you are going to visit the NASA Space Center” and I could not believe it, that day will be one of the most unforgettable days of my life and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to know this news. 

    What do you consider to have been the most challenging moments in achieving this goal of reaching the Space Center?

    Alejandra:  It was very difficult because my skating classes were combined with virtual classes. So, I stopped skating, I gained weight, they took me to the doctor and told me I had to lose weight, but I didn’t know how to manage my time because in the morning I was in school classes and in the afternoon, I was in the foundation classes. But they were a lot of fun, I learned many new things that I had not seen before because, for example, the laboratory at my school is a half laboratory, since my department of Guajira is one of the most forgotten by the state… I did not know anything about robotics, and more or less I knew something about technology thanks to my computer teacher, but in reality, it was thanks to the talks and the process of the foundation, which was very difficult to be honest, where I learned a lot about all these topics. 

    Melanny: Well, in my case it was the band… because I also had to cross schedules with the foundation’s lectures. My rehearsals were from 2 to 5 in the afternoon and the lectures were at 4 o’clock, so I always had to choose, or sometimes, I would only go for an hour and then I would run home to listen to the lectures. The other thing was sometimes the lack of internet because the shootings and bombings started here in Saravena… then most of the time the signal was lost but thank God in the end we were able to solve it. Even though my days were very busy, and I ended up very tired, I don’t regret it because I was able to fulfill this dream and all the effort was worth it. 

    How did it feel to have the opportunity to visit the NASA Space Center? What struck you most about the experience? 

    Alejandra: I was so shocked by it all! Because I didn’t know anything about how things worked over there, I asked myself: How does this work? But how did they manage to get this to reach there, so far away, to space? How can it be possible that I am touching this with my hands? Everything amazed me! and I had so many questions, everything was impressive. 

    Melanny: The truth is that everything for me was spectacular because stepping into a new country was already incredible. I feel that when I entered the Space Center and looked at everything that was in there …. Everything was so big! I felt very small, I watched how they put those spacecrafts, there were many things that I did not know… when we were further inside, we were able to see the “Saturn 5”, it was a giant thing and I wanted to take pictures everywhere. When we got inside, I felt closer and closer to the stars, I could not assimilate it, every time we arrived from a class at the Space Center I would lie down on the bed and say God, I am fulfilling my biggest dream! 

    Do you dream of living in another country? What would be your dream country? 

    Alejandra: Well, I really want to travel all over the world, but the country I would like to stay for a while and live there, even for a year or two, would be Canada I would love Canada! 

    Melanny:  I like Canada, I know it is a very cold place because there are seasons, but I also know that it is a place with many open doors. There are very good universities, the study there is very good and if you go there, you must learn English, and I feel that I am a person who would like to be able to speak English and manage it perfectly. 

    What is your biggest dream for the future and how do you plan to achieve it? 

    Alejandra: I have many dreams, I would like to be a biochemist, study social communication or dance. I would also like to speak English, to know other countries, to travel around the world… I really couldn’t decide on one right now. I think that to achieve them I need to have the vision that I am already fulfilling my dream and think about what things I need to do to fulfill them little by little and reach those goals.

     

    Melanny:  Well, first graduate from high school, enter college and become a professional. I have three options to study: aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, or optometry… but the main thing is to be a professional. I feel like a lot of girls end up in a career they don’t like and end up cutting it, I feel like that’s a problem… but if you have a clear goal, you can achieve it. So, you can start by having a plan so that in the end you can achieve the goal you’ve always wanted. 

    How has your experience as a crew member at the Foundation contributed to your future dreams and goals? 

    Alejandra: It has contributed a lot because thanks to this, many doors have opened for me, I have had more interviews, I have been invited to many important events, I have been considered and my opinion as a teenage leader has been considered. This has helped me a lot and I also inspire many girls, that fills my heart, it makes me feel something very nice and it fills me a lot. 

    Melanny: Before, I didn’t have a career in mind, I was worried that I was about to leave school and I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t have anything in mind… but after the opportunity to meet Nadia, the foundation and the Space Center, another path opened up for me, the path of science, the path of being a leader and empowering more girls. I would like to tell the other girls who did not make it to the crew not to give up, to look for more alternatives because there is always a way, like a mathematical exercise there is always a solution. 

    What is your driving force to achieve your dreams and goals?

    Alejandra: My driving force is my mom because she has been my manager, my photographer, my writer, and many other things. She is the one who has helped me with all this long journey, and it is my mom who is always looking out for me. For example, my mom helped me to be in this interview because we had to come to the village to access the internet, she is a “berraca” woman and fighter. I would like to inherit many things from her, I look at her when she is cooking the arepas, when she flips them and doesn’t burn them…. I wonder, am I going to inherit all that from her? My mother is my driving force and the one who teaches me many things. 

    Melanny: Clearly my parents, I love them both very much and they have always made an effort to give me everything. The main thing they have always given me is joy and support. God also inspires me; he is my guardian angel. 

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