Sturgis Baxter: A Journey to Success at NASA Langley Research Center

Success … a word that is commonly thrown around from place to place. We see it on social media platforms, we read it in news publications, and we hear the word often from our parents and those whom we often look up to. But what is success? Is it living up to the status quo of your generation’s idea of perfection? I would dare to say no. Rather, let me tell you a story of a young man whose past could never have predicted his future. That young man is me.

Nearly three years ago, nobody would have guessed the young man living out of his Ford Explorer and showering at a local gym would ever go back to college, much less work for NASA. Yet, here I am. Up to that point in my life, I had made nearly every mistake a person could think of and then some. Working at a local warehouse, I was able to save up the three thousand dollars it was going to take in order to pay my way back into a local community college where I took up studies in their computer science program. Furthermore, I never imagined myself applying to a program like NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars, but I did. What came as even more of a surprise was that I got into the program, succeeded in the online course, and was offered an additional onsite experience at Stennis Space Center with other community college students from across the nation.

Sturgis Baxter (top row, center) and his NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) teammates at Stennis Space Center.

Statistical data would have likely shown something different for me than where I stand now. Taken from my parents at a young age, I grew up as an adopted child. The feeling of not being wanted and feeling like trash was not a foreign concept to me. I lived with that feeling for a long time before deciding to make a change and stand up for what I believed to be true: That I could change my stars if I only kept trying. So that’s exactly what I did. Despite my failures, I continued to try and never gave up on the idea that I could become a successful person. Today, I am reaping the benefit of believing I could become someone different.

My internship with Langley Research Center has taught me many lessons and principles which will certainly last me a lifetime. I am privileged daily to work and think alongside minds who view the world from a similar perspective. In the NASA culture, we think about things and we think about them from multiple perspectives. NASA truly employs the brightest and most creative minds that understand the beauty of diverse thinking. We work together to complete our mission, bring new ideas to those around us, and write the story for others to read when it comes to space exploration. I am without doubt continually humbled at the opportunity I’ve had in the past few months.

Sturgis Baxter (far left) and fellow NASA Langley interns celebrate completing their submission to the Spring 2018 NASA Intern agency-wide challenge.

My plan is to take back the project management and communication skills I’ve developed with NASA to help lead the way in producing valuable virtual reality research during my continued tenure as an undergraduate student. To change the world requires work, patience, and perseverance among other traits such as leadership and diplomacy. There is no doubt that working with NASA has helped make me a better person. I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to share my story and this tidbit of advice: Fight passionately, fight smart, and always pull up the people beside you.

Check out current internship opportunities available at intern.nasa.gov.

Author: Christine Linsinbigler

NASA Internships Coordinator, Communications Lead, and Disabilities Coordinator