Thank you, Sally Ride, for helping the children of Billings. Upon hearing of her untimely death from pancreatic cancer, I write these words as a tribute. Ride was brilliant and was studying astrophysics at Stanford University when an opportunity to apply to NASA came to her attention. It's been decades since she was chosen as the first American woman in space, but she kept giving her name, funds and time to help young learners get inspired in science.
She was a gifted speaker, one who chose her words carefully to convey the wonders of space and inspire students to consider all kinds of career opportunities. She was able to weave in humor to her speeches and was always generous with her time during the question/answer sessions afterwards. How do I know this? Because she collaborated with ExxonMobil (another thank you to our local refinery employees) to use funding for science teachers and counselors to attend the Sally Ride Science Academy, held all over the United States.
In 2010, 12 Billings Public School teachers were able to attend the academy near San Diego. I was so privileged to be part of the middle school group representing Riverside and got to network with educators from Will James, Lewis and Clark and Castle Rock. Counselors were invited because they are so important to advising youth on getting a solid four-year plan in high school for future college plans. Area elementary teachers went to the Sally Ride Science Academy on a different week to get age-appropriate training. We all received sets of career books worth over $250, each sent directly to our schools. Our group of Billings teachers trained other teachers who then also got the set of career books free.
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Like a rock lands in a pond causing ever widening ripples, so, too, did Ride's gift of learning spread out across our community and state.