Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former NASA astronaut inspires students at Stewart Middle Magnet School

TAMPA — Growing up, Bruce Melnick wanted to be a fisherman like his father.

No one in his family had gone to college, so despite his good grades in math and science at Clearwater High School, he hadn't considered furthering his education.

But his mother had other plans. She encouraged him to attend the Coast Guard Academy, where he earned a degree in engineering.

And it paid off.

Melnick, 64, later went on to become a NASA astronaut, flying in two missions in space, in 1990 and 1992.

Now retired seven years, there is still time to be a fisherman, he told a group of sixth-graders at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa on Thursday.

"You all have your whole lives ahead of you," Melnick said. "Go ahead and reach for the stars. I always say, 'the sky is no longer the limit.' "

Melnick was at Stewart to help induct 27 students into the school's John Glenn Top Gun Academy, which is an honor society for students who earn high grades and have a strong interest in aerospace.

To become members, students must fill out applications and go through interviews.

"It's an entire process," STEM lead teacher Josephine Corder said.

The reward for entrance, though, is worth the work, Corder said.

Each year, a different astronaut, physicist or astronomer visits with the school. The students got to spend the day Thursday with Melnick, who shared his experiences aboard Discovery and Endeavour, regaling them with stories of what a space launch feels like.

In April, the students will head to Kennedy Space Center on the annual two-day, all-expenses-paid trip, where they'll have a behind-the-scenes tour, Corder said.

That is why Jeffrey Potvin, 11, of Lutz, joined.

"I like all the field trips we get to go on," Jeffrey said, wearing the medal he received at the induction ceremony around his neck.

Destanie Johnson, 12, of Tampa, was also inducted Thursday. She said she joined because she likes to think of all the possibilities space has to offer.

"I'm waiting for them to find some kind of rocket to get us to another galaxy," Destanie said.

As a NASA Explorer School, Stewart attracts students from across Hillsborough County with an interest in aerospace. The school, on Spruce Street, focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

"Ask our kids the importance of STEM and they'll say, 'Where else can you go to school and build and design robots and rockets and video games?' " Corder said. "This is where all the excitement is."

Melnick remembers how excited he was upon hearing the news as a child about the first man to go into space. He hopes to pass that spark along to the next generation.

"If I have a chance to help just one student and put them on the right path," Melnick said, "then, it is all worth it."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

Former NASA astronaut inspires students at Stewart Middle Magnet School 03/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2014 1:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  2. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.
  3. Baghdad orders Kurdistan region to hand over borders, ports

    World

    BAGHDAD — Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, hours before the region is set to carry out a controversial referendum on support for independence.

    Iraqi Kurds climb the fence into a soccer stadium during a rally in Irbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, on Friday. Kurds will vote in a referendum today on the creation of their own country.
  4. Official: Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades

    Hurricanes

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria's destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

    National Guardsmen arrive Sunday at Barrio Obrero in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to distribute water and food to people in need after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria. The death toll on the island from Maria is 10, but that number is expected to climb.  
  5. Gunman opens fire in Nashville church; 1 dead, 7 wounded

    Crime

    NASHVILLE — A masked gunman invaded a Nashville church Sunday and opened fire, walking silently down the aisle as he shot unsuspecting congregants. At least one person was killed and seven others wounded, authorities said.

    Kaitlyn Adams, a member of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, hugs another church member at the scene after shots were fired at the church on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Antioch, Tenn. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)