For Solonda Wesley, following the crowd was never the option. She always wanted to stand out, and with her current internship with NASA, she can do just that.
Wesley is currently a Computer and Information Technology student at Central Carolina Technical College and an intern with NASA, where she is working with the Exploration Technology Office (ETO). Wesley works with the Technology Development Team to identify key technologies needed to achieve human exploration priorities along the pathway to the moon and to Mars.
In addition, Wesley helps the ETO develop a technology portfolio to ensure critical needs are prioritized, developed and delivered. With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she will work on additional projects for her degree as assigned by her mentors.
Wesley originally wanted to be a civil engineer with NASA, but later wanted something more complex and different that would allow her to step out of her comfort zone. She found another passion in technology which made her pursue this internship.
“I have a passion for technology,” Wesley said. “In today’s world, everything is technology based. There’s nothing you can do that does not have some form of technology attached to it. To be a part of it and help fix it, that’s me. I am a fixer-upper. Call on me and I’m there to solve the problem. You can teach others, which is what the ETO does. It teaches technology and how it can help NASA with their mission.”
Wesley is also excited about the one-of-a-kind networking opportunities that her internship provides, opening up even more doors for her in the future and setting her apart from the crowd.
“Another benefit of this internship is that you meet other people,” Wesley said. “You don’t just network with your mentors; you are networking with other people. It’s a great way to segue into government work.”
This networking gives Wesley options for her future that she never dreamed.
“This internship alone can open so many doors. You don’t have to stick with NASA. They want you to network with government officials and I find that to be extraordinary,” Wesley said. “Never in a million years would I have ever thought I would be chosen to do work with such prestigious people. I’m so excited to see where this goes for me. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine.”
Despite all of the work Wesley has done and will continue to do with NASA, she is forever grateful for the resources made available to her at Central Carolina..
“I could cry tears of joy,” Wesley said. “There are so many people who encouraged and motivated me. At first I wasn’t going to apply for the NASA internship. Then Ms. Renee Patchin said, ‘Hey Solonda, why not? Do it.’ My instructors motivated me even more to keep going forward. I’m so grateful for Central.”
Following graduation, Wesley wants to attend the University of South Carolina for her bachelor’s degree in computer science. She hopes to stay with the ETO office in NASA, either in Texas or Florida.