HANCEVILLE, ALA. –  Wallace State students Kaitlin Richards and Ryan Ratliff have each been selected as National Aeronautics and Space (NASA) Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS).

Both Richards and Ratliff began the five-week online program on March 21. Through April 25, they’ll participate in a myriad of online activities, including completing short quizzes and discussions and interacting with NASA engineers and scientists through webinars. Richards and Ratliff will also participate in webinars with fellow students in the program and complete an assigned NASA project.

Students who successfully complete the web-based activities are eligible to earn an onsite experience at NASA, where they’ll attend briefings by engineers and scientists, tour NASA facilities and work on a team project led by NASA engineers, among many other activities.

Richards, 24, has aspirations to carve out a career as an aerospace engineer. At Wallace State, she is a member of the following honor societies: Phi Theta Kappa, Mu Alpha Theta and Sigma Kappa Delta.

“Ever since I was a kid, I was in love with space. My end goal is to experience what NASA aerospace engineers do and this will definitely help prepare me for my future. I’m working hard towards that goal,” said Richards, a mother to four children. “I’m excited about this opportunity and competition. I would absolutely love to work for NASA, so I know this entire experience is going to be beneficial.”

Richards plans to transfer to UAH in the fall.

Ratliff, 24, has fallen in love with math and the STEM Pathways as he has progressed as a Wallace State student. Ratliff, a Hayden High grad, will graduate from Wallace State’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program in May in addition to completing all of his pre-engineering courses. Ratliff has already earned his paramedic license.

“In high school, math was one of my worst subjects. I did enough to get by. When I came to Wallace State, I realized how much I enjoyed math, once I made an effort to understand it. My dad has always encouraged me to pursue an engineering degree because I loved tearing things apart and putting them back together as a kid,” Ratliff said. “As I’ve worked on completing my EMS degree, I’ve also decided to pursue a mechanical engineering degree.”

Ratliff, who also plans to transfer to UAH in the fall, has high hopes as a NCAS participant.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for this opportunity. I can’t think of anything better to help better prepare me for the next step in life. It’s a dream to have the chance to work with real NASA scientists, which is not something everyone gets to say on a regular basis. My dream job is to work for NASA and help send rockets into space and design cars that make this world a better place,” Ratliff said. “If all goes well, I’m ecstatic to have the chance to meet some of these scientists face-to-face and see what possibilities come from it.”

Richards and Ratliff were each nominated by Wallace State math instructor Renee Quick.

“I’m very proud of both of Kaitlyn and Ryan. They are both great students, and I’m very excited to see we had two students accepted into the program this year. We’ve had students selected in the past, but this is the first time in a while to have two selected at the same time,” Quick said. “I know they’ll both do a great job, and I look forward to seeing them get to experience visiting the Johnson Space Center.”

Richards and Ratliff were selected among a large pool of candidates based on their application profile, submitted essay and letter of recommendation.

Before Richards and Ratliff, David Schwaiger was the last Wallace State student to be selected to the program.

NASA’s 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.

For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.

Wallace State students Kaitlyn Richards, left, and Ryan Ratliff are both participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program through April 25.

Wallace State students Kaitlyn Richards, left, and Ryan Ratliff are both participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program through April 25.


Russell Moore

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