By Maria Ribot (Managing Layout Editor)
I recently had the privilege to attend Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy-Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This experience helped me strengthen my leadership skills as well as my ability to work in a team effectively. Not only this, but I was able to have clarity on other fields of study that I wasn’t interested in, such as space travel and exploration. However, the best part about this experience, was the people that I had the privilege to build amazing friendships with in such a short amount of time.
The application process was so rigorous, that I almost backed out of applying for the program. I had to provide evidence of academic success and write three essays. Not knowing if they’ll ever choose me to attend the Academy was nerve-racking, as I thought that I couldn’t possibly compete with the applicant pool. Receiving the acceptance email evoked a feeling of such joy and honor that I wished I was there already.
The attendance for the Leadership Challenge Academy consisted of people from 41 countries and 27 states. This was one of my favorite parts of the Academy because I got the opportunity to interact and form friendships with amazing students. For instance, in my team, there were 6 countries, which include, Belgium, South Korea, Argentina, France, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. There were also 5 states represented, which were Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, Florida, and California. I got to spend time with people that had different hopes and dreams, and the fact that I had the chance to see my peers get closer to their goals was so amazing to witness.
During the first days of the camp, everyone was so shy, including myself, because few teenagers in are exposed to an environment of differing cultures and stay calm. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, and make the most of this opportunity. Doing this ended up being one the best decision of my life. I allowed myself to meet so many people from so many different parts of the world, which was a game-changer for me.
As a part of the Academy, I went through a series of preparations for mock missions. For example, one of the missions was the Aviation Challenge, in which my team discussed budget planning and strategies to complete the mission effectively. The training consisted of flying an extensively accurate aviation simulator to perfect take-off and landing procedures for the given aircraft. It was a challenge for me to control my “aircraft”, but with the help of my team leader and my teammates, I ended up contributing positively to the mission. Another activity, which was one of my favorites, was Incident Command. In this simulation, we were given a scenario, such as a natural disaster. Then, we were assigned positions to fulfill the goal of that role. I received Deputy Incident Commander, which was one of the officials in the top tier of authority. My responsibility was to oversee the works of all departments and assist the Incident Commander in a game plan. Fortunately, my team pulled through, and we achieved more than most teams that day. Also, one of the last experiences I got to participate in was the Rocket Launch. I learned how to program, build, and launch a rocket, made out of cardboard and wood. This was such a huge accomplishment for our team, even though we had our doubts in the start. Our team especially bonded through common success, which was achieved on the second day of camp, when we were challenged to build, test and present a heat shield that ended up withstanding 3,500 degrees of pure fire out of a blowtorch. This experience was the one that really brought us closer together according to our strengths and weaknesses.
On graduation day, there were mixed emotions in the camp. It was sad that we wouldn’t see each other again, but we were happy to go home and see our families. As the director called the teams to the stage, I felt so accomplished and honored to be part of something so life-altering. Winning the Excellence in Leadership award was such an amazing accomplishment for me that I was so honored to receive. I have to admit, I was trying so hard to hold my tears back when I heard my team’s reaction when they called my name and as I received my award and shook hands with the Space Camp officials and other important figures that spoke and taught throughout the week.
My experience in this camp was life-changing. Not only did I receive clarity and insight on what I wanted to achieve in my life, but I met so many people that I am certain that will support me through my journey as I grow in intellect and character. I am beyond grateful to Honeywell, the US Space and Rocket Center, and all the people that make this camp accessible for so many students around the world. Providing them with this once in a lifetime experience will bring new faces and ideas to the real world over time.
For more content, check out Amber Lake’s story on the Ponte Vedra Recorder website: https://pontevedrarecorder.com
Cover Photo Credit: Reena Rose Photography