BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Jessica Watkins graduated from Fairview High School in Boulder in 2006. She most recently graduated from earth’s gravity and is now recognized as the first Black woman on a long-duration space mission aboard the ISS.
Monday Fairview students were allowed to ask the inspiring alumni recorded questions while she floated around in zero gravity. Questions ranged from “What are the challenges you face daily on the space station?” (the answer rounding out to the food) to more pressing questions about the challenges Watkins faced on her way to the (very) top.
“As a person of color, it would be great to know what is the biggest issue that you face because of your race and how have you overcome it?” Fairview student Gabriel Staehelin asked.
Watkins chose to focus on the ways she’s pushed past the challenges and hoped to inspire people like Staehelin that they could do it too.
“I think we all have had our challenges and things we have had to overcome to get to this point,” Watkinsa said, while floating. “The things that have made it for me to be able to make it through those harder times and overcome those obstacles is finding mentors and friends and support networks that have helped encourage me along the path.”
Another student asked Watkins about working in a male dominated field, which Watkins said she was hopeful younger generations will continue to support young woman in STEM fields, and hopefully she can help lead by example as proof it’s possible. Still Watkins attributes the point she has gotten to was not with out struggle, or support from people willing to lend a hand. She said a major factor was simply having a passion for what she was doing, and encouraged the students to find what they desperately wanted to do, and stick with it.
“When I first vocalized my interest in this career, I never really thought it would happen but just putting one foot in front of the other…super lucky to be here,” Watkins said with a smile.