“She saw herself in only one way: an astronaut.”
There once was a girl named Sally who dreamed of being an astronaut. She was told from a young age that she could not be one. During her time only white men were ever astronauts. One day in school she was asked by a teacher, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said she wanted to be an astronaut. The class immediately burst out into laughter. The boys and even the girls in Sally’s class did not believe that she would ever be capable of becoming an astronaut. They were used to the gender stereotypes that were quite prominent at the time. They were told that men were the ones who accomplished anything of significance, while the women were meant to stay home and support them. Sally did not believe in those stereotypes.
From a young age Sally was always good at science. She found it very interesting and made sure to work hard and always get the best score possible on all of her tests. She knew that if she worked hard now it would surely pay off later, toward her ambitious dream. Not only was Sally good at science, but she was also superb at playing tennis. Sally was a first-rate tennis player. She even managed to gain the rank as one of the nation’s best. Knowing she was able to accomplish such a feat, Sally was finally reassured that her goal of becoming an astronaut was more than just a fantasy. If she could really be considered one of the nation’s best tennis players then that meant that she too could become more than just a girl with a dream, she would become an astronaut.
Sally was on her way toward fulfilling her dream. After high school, Sally took her career even further and attended college. She went to Swarthmore College for a few years, but then transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles and managed to take a few courses in physics. There she realized her passion for the subject and later on managed to attend a prestigious school by the name of Stanford University and graduated with a degree in physics, as well as English. While attending this school she became involved in some revolutionary research having to do with the interaction of X-rays and an interstellar medium. She pursued her education here and eventually earned a PhD in Physics.
Now that Sally was able to earn her degree, she was more than prepared to become an astronaut. In fact, during her stay at Stanford she answered a newspaper advertisement seeking applicants for a space program. Later on, it was this little ad that actually resulted in her admittance into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA for short. This milestone drastically propelled her dream forward and into reality. When working for NASA, Sally served as a ground-based capsule communicator between the astronauts in space and the mission control center.
Throughout her career, Sally faced discrimination wherever she went. Because she was a woman, people did not believe she was as capable as a man at the same job. As a female astronaut, she stirred up negative media attention all around. She was considered to be too emotional and physically incapable of being a good astronaut. During press conferences, some people even had the nerve to ask her questions like, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” or “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” Even though many people were unsupportive of her career as a NASA physicist, she never let that bring her down. Sally knew she had worked just as hard, or maybe even harder, than any man in order to become this successful. She saw herself in only one way: an astronaut.
On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to ever travel to space. Sally and her crew were sent up there to position two communication satellites and conducted momentous pharmaceutical experiments. Sally also managed to become the first woman to use a robotic arm in space, as well as the first to use that arm to retrieve a satellite.
Just like Sally, we all need a little bit of courage to step out of our comfort zone. It does not matter what people think about you or what society says about what is right or wrong. You do you. As long as you stay true to yourself you can accomplish anything if you work hard at it. It is about time for us to get rid of our outdated gender norms and value people for their intelligence and brilliant minds. It is people like Sally Ride who are paving the way for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity, etc. Inspire them to take initiative and become hardworking individuals who can contribute to our society and developing world.
Her story inspires me to not care what other people think. I can be what I want to be and not let anyone else bring me down. We should all treat each other equally and respect each others’ opinions, beliefs, and especially their dreams. For example, whenever I encounter somebody who disapproves of me or my actions, I never let their words hurt me. The only person who has an impact on how I perceive myself is me. Discrimination has no part in my life and it should never be a part of yours.
826LA’s Summer Writers Workshop is a weeklong writing camp for teens that takes place each June. Students in Echo Park and Mar Vista participate in workshops led by guest poets, writers, and artists. By exploring various styles of writing throughout the week, students build confidence in telling their own stories compiled books like Beyond My Outer Layer.
You can purchase Beyond My Outer Layer online or at a Time Travel Mart near you!