Not quite ready for the big-scale university experience, Angela Pedersen opted to study at Meridian Community College after she finished high school, to see if any opportunities revealed themselves.
“Lo and behold one (opportunity) did in the form of the NASA program I took over the summer,” she said.
Pedersen, 19, of Meridian, was one of the 170 who received their diplomas and certificates during the College’s summer commencement held in the Temple Theater on Friday. During the ceremony, she offered the invocation and was named a member of the Summer Class of 2019 Circle of Excellence.
Geared for community college students, NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program, offered earlier this summer at MCC offered participants a chance to learn about NASA research and missions. “I loved the NASA course. It set me up with the idea that something as renowned as NASA was a height I could reach.”
She added, “I am thankful that I went to MCC or I might not have found the road I want to pursue,” she said.
Describing herself as a “natural introvert,” Pedersen questioned applying for the program but decided to try thinking “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Before taking the class, Pedersen never really thought of NASA and biology in the same vein of anything other than they were probably kind of related in that they were sending astronauts to space.
" I learned all these interesting details about how the international space station monitors ecosystems affected by sudden disasters on earth and all the machinery and systems that are taken to space in order to search for life and understand the surface and in the end I was really excited and was not really ready for it to end,” she said.
She noted the experience is yielding more fruit as Pedersen has been accepted to an onsite excursion where she can attend lectures with professionals and get a more personal look at the things that interest her.
But that’s not all. The opportunity is giving Pedersen a goal. “Not even just the nebulous concept of being at NASA one day in the future but something right now and next year. In the summer of 2020, I will have a shot at earning an internship at NASA and I plan to be relentless in giving it my all,” she said.
Though she’s still undecided about her future, Pedersen wants to study biology and become a researcher. “From there I want to earn a job at NASA and I'm excited to use that knowledge to learn more about all the effects space has on biological systems,” she said.
In addition to the NASA session, Pedersen was a member of the Phil Hardin Foundation Honors College at Meridian Community College. “It provided so many benefits and opportunities for building up my skills in leadership and learning more about myself. I also got to travel a bit which is something else I got to do so with a lot of other students like me where I made new friends,” she said.
Still, what she liked about MCC was the low student-to-teacher ratio and the availability of reaching out to her instructors when she had questions. “I like to be a perfectionist about my work so being able to contact them and get a fairly quick response was a godsend,” she added.
Pedersen is now getting ready to move to Hattiesburg into residential housing on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. She's also been accepted in USM's honors college.
Photo: Angela Pedersen, left, reviews notes with MCC Dean of Student Services Deanna Smith before Friday’s commencement program.