Education

South Dakota "Rocket Girls" Blast Off To Kennedy Space Center

SIOUX FALLS, SD - By now we know what happens at the Kennedy Space Center, but the facility is also launching the dreams of several South Dakota high school students. A group left the Sioux Falls Regional Airport Thursday morning. A two-day camp is the the next stop, but the real destination is unlimited career potential. 

Five-year-old Chloe Podhradsky is a lucky little girl. because she gets to see Florida. Don't let the Minnie Mouse in her backpack fool you; she's not going to Disney World. 

"When she was student of the week, they asked her what do you want to be when you grow up. She said, 'a professor, because that's what women are,'" Ashley Podhradsky, Dakota State University Associate Professor of Digital Forensics, said. 

Podhradsky is not only a professor she is also Chloe's mom. She, Chloe and 14 high school students are visiting the Kennedy Space Center. 

"It's an amazing opportunity," Sarah Aman, a high school junior from Warner, SD, said. 

All of these young women will learn about cyber security. Aman says being with her peers is a refreshing change of pace compared to most computer classes she's been in. 

"You might be the only girl in the whole room and then you come here and you're surrounded by girls and it's just the most amazing thing," Sarah Aman, high school junior, said. 

DSU's CybHER program and AT&T will foot the bill for a truly priceless experience. Students get to explore digital forensics, programming, and cryptography at the two-day camp. The goal of the CybHER program is to empower, motivate, educate and change the perception of women and girls in cyber security fields. 

"I want to go into something computer-related. I'm not sure, whether that's programming, cyber defense. I'm not sure yet," Annabelle Klosterman, a high school junior, said. 

Podhradsky is sure visiting the Kennedy Space Center will help these young women lift off to high-level careers. 

"Introducing them to fields, making sure there's zero barriers of entry and so that way they can see an environment where women are excelling in there and they can excel there, too," Podhradsky said. 

Which brings us back to Chloe Podhradsky. She's not fooled by the Minnie Mouse in her backpack. She knows she's lucky to see heroes in real life; smart, strong, determined women who will teach her how to succeed. 

"Don't be afraid. Jump in and don't let anybody tell you no," Aman said.


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