Caden Cuevas, a Ceres student at Modesto Junior College, has been selected to travel to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center this spring to participate in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars project (NCAS).
Cuevas is one of 348 community college students selected from across the United States to be part of NCAS.
The five-week scholars program culminates with a four-day, on-site event at Ames Research Center and offers students the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and others as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA, students form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team is responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget, and developing communications and outreach.
The on-site experience at NASA includes a tour of facilities and briefings by NASA subject matter experts.
"Being an astronomer is my dream, and working with NASA has always been my childhood dream and now I can proudly say I've achieved it," Cuevas said.
An alumnus of Ceres High School, Cuevas has attended MJC since 2014 and plans to graduate this summer with an Associate of Arts in general studies, emphasis in Social and Behavioral Science. He hopes to attend California State University, Stanislaus or CSU Sacramento to major in psychology and minor in astronomy.
"My career goal is to do something I love, because it's not just about the money," said Cuevas. "I'm thinking about joining the Peace Corps once I graduate and teach around the world. Helping those in need has always been a goal of mine."
Cuevas, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in 2003, is a first-generation college student. After being orphaned in 2006 he became determined to achieve a college education.
"Ever since that day I have tried my hardest to prove, not only to others but to myself, that I am capable of doing anything I put my heart into."
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars is a project funded in part by the Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, which is committed to the recruitment of underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to sustain a diverse workforce.
With this project, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's educational programs. It is directly tied to the agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines critical to NASA's future missions, which include missions to Mars and beyond.
"NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA," said MUREP manager Tania B. Davis. "NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to and ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague."