A 16-year-old township high school student had a life-affirming experience this summer when she ventured to the Deep South for a special science camp.
Jenny Quispe of North Bergen, a student at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, attended the Advanced Space Academy 2013 Summer Camp in Huntsville, Ala. from July 28 through Aug. 2. She received an award to attend from the Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children.
This intensive six-day program emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math skills that are integral to preparing the next generation of space scientists and explorers.
And while it was fun, Quispe said it could also be grueling. All of those six days were 16-hour days, meaning her training was packed with experiments, classroom learning, and physical exertion.
“We would wake up at 6:30 in the morning, and the day wouldn’t end until 10:30 at night,” she said.
Among the physical activities were rock climbing, zip-lining, and crawling up a 30-foot pole only to jump off with a harness once reaching the top.
“It showed me how to not back down from my fears.” – Jenny Quispe
The physical training also included the gravity chair, where participants are fastened so they can twist about, simulating what floating on the moon feels like.
Academics were a big part of her week in Alabama. Of course, there was review of the earth and moon, but it did not end there.
“We studied the constellations as well,” Quispe said. “Then at the end of the program, we had a Space Bowl. It was set up like Jeopardy.”
Even more challenging was the engineering course she took, in which she and teammates had to design, purchase parts for, and build an actual rocket – and then do experiments with it that had to work.
“We also had a class on what to do if you got sick in space,” she said.
Getting the scholarship to attend the academy was no slam dunk, even for a student as good as Quispe. She needed a science teacher’s recommendation, had to submit her report card for her math and science grades for the year, and was asked to write an essay on why she deserved to attend.
Quispe said the academy opened up a whole new world to her in terms of friendship. She met other students from across the United States and a few foreign countries. And she is still in touch with 10 of the 20 teammates from camp.
One of the biggest things Quispe came out of the academy with was a confirmation of what she wants to study in college and possibly do for life. While she already knew it was science and math related, she now has it nailed down.
“It made me more assured about what career path I’m leaning toward,” she said. “Before that I was very indecisive.”
She says she is now sure she wants to pursue a degree in engineering, mechanical or aeronautical, in college.
And while she is only going into her junior year in high school, she already has her sights on where she would like to attain either of those engineering degrees: Princeton, Georgetown, or Harvard universities.
Another major thing Quispe took away from the summer experience could basically be described as an epiphany; it taught her to think differently.
“It made me see things from a difference perspective,” she said. “Before I didn’t know how hard it is to control a plane. Everyone’s been on one. But after seeing all those buttons and controls, when you go through the program, you see how much responsibility there is.”
One other thing Quispe took away from the program was how to believe in herself, no matter how unsure she might be in a situation.
“It showed me how to not back down from my fears,” she said, referring to the rock climbing, zip-lining, and pole climbing. “I realized if I can jump off a 30-foot pole, I can do anything.”
Jenny is not the only Quispe proud of her achievements this summer.
“I am very proud. I am very proud of my daughter,” said her mother, Jenny Aquije. “She’s been achieving everything she’s set her mind on.”
The program is accredited by the University of Alabama-Huntsville and participants in the Summer Academy earn one hour of freshman level science credit for their successful completion of the program.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.