Annual presentation to faculty and staff members highlights R&D, philanthropy, athletics, and leadership in diversity and equity.
Victoria Harrelson will spend the summer at a familiar hangout, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Harrelson, a junior from Lafayette majoring in elementary education, will work as a counselor at the rocket center’s Space Camp from mid-May to mid-August.
The educational camp is where in summers past she fell in love with space exploration, landed a significant role in the Emmy-nominated documentary “The Mars Generation,” and figured out she wanted to be a teacher.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which is operated by the state of Alabama, sits near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The rocket center was launched in 1970 to showcase the country’s space program, and offers educational camps for children and adults throughout the year. Its summer Space Camp for children is designed to engage them in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, activities.
Harrelson’s duties as a counselor will include providing instruction about space exploration, and conducting simulated missions and training exercises.
She’ll lead based on experience. Harrelson first attended Space Camp at age 13, although somewhat reluctantly. She tagged along only at the urging of a persistent cousin.
“I remember that first night being like, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this,’” Harrelson said.
She quickly changed her mind. “I wound up just falling in love with space and really started growing as a person and learning about teamwork and becoming a leader.”
Harrelson returned to the camp four times while in middle school and high school. During her third summer there, when she was 15, Harrelson landed a role in the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary “The Mars Generation.” The documentary, which was filmed in 2015, features astronauts and other space experts who weigh in about the future of space exploration.
Its true stars, according to The New York Times, are the “brilliant, space-obsessed teens, who take part in special camps designed to simulate what it might be like to travel to and even live on Mars.” Harrelson has a significant role, appearing throughout the more than hour and a half film. She’s shown engaging in Space Camp activities, interacting with peers and being interviewed.
The role earned Harrelson a paid trip to the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 in St. Lake City, Utah, where “The Mars Generation” premiered. It was released that May on Netflix, where it’s currently available for livestreaming.
“The entire experience was really just very cool, and very humbling,” Harrelson said.
Harrelson also decided on a career at Space Camp. In summer 2019, during her first stint as a camp counselor, she realized she wanted to teach while watching children “have aha moments when they would understand a new concept.”
Harrelson anticipates earning her bachelor’s degree in Spring 2023. Her future students, however, will only learn about space if it’s subject matter included in the pages of fiction.
A lifelong reader, she plans to teach English.
“Education had always been a little bug in my ear, but I honestly never realized I could be a leader until Space Camp. The more I thought about it, the more I was like, ‘This is what I need to do, help kids find out who they are and where they’re supposed to go,’” Harrelson explained.
Photo caption: Victoria Harrelson will return to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, this summer to work as a camp counselor. She attended the educational camp regularly as a teenager, including in summer 2015 (shown above), when she landed a role in the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary “The Mars Generation.” Submitted photo