In honor of our 2018 Girl of the Year™, Luciana Vega, an aspiring astronaut who launches her dream of landing on Mars after winning a scholarship to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, American Girl donated $20,000 to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Education Foundation to give 20 deserving individuals the opportunity to attend Space Camp for free.

Meet 11-year-old Payton B. from Florida and 10-year-old Rosa G. from Virginia, two of the scholarship recipients who are going to Space Camp!

PAYTON B.

What prompted you to apply for a Space Camp scholarship?

One of my best friends’ grandpa works for NASA and is a rocket engineer. She went to Space Camp one year, and she came back to school and told me all about it. I wanted to go so bad. This scholarship means so much to me, especially because it is sponsored by American Girl! It means so much that I could be a role model to other girls! I really hope this encourages more girls to be involved in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math & Medicine).

What are you most looking forward to seeing or doing during your time at Space Camp? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

I am looking forward to the Multi-Axis Trainer, because I am a daredevil and I love to have fun. I am also excited to meet other girls involved in STEMM. I hope to learn a lot about the new mission to Mars and about the International Space Station.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up and why? How do you think your Space Camp experience will help you with that goal?

I want to be an ER doctor when I grow up. But, not just any ER doctor! I want to work on the International Space Station! If anything happens in space I will be able to take care of the astronauts. For example, if there was a plague on Mars when the astronauts landed, they could fly to the ISS and I could treat them. Space Camp will help me prepare to travel to space and work with my team.

What do you think are the most important qualities to be a good leader?

The most important qualities of a leader are being able to work in groups, being able to incorporate all members of a team into a project, and to be very understanding. Also, leaders must lead, not be bossy. There is a big difference. When you are bossy, you misuse the power you get when you are a leader. Leaders help people!

Who are your heroes or role models and why?

One of my role models is Marie Curie. She was an inspirational scientist that worked in a time when there were very few women in the field. She had a difficult childhood, but still pressed on to be an amazing woman and scientist. She changed the whole medical field by discovering radiation, which was later used to take x-rays.

Katherine Johnson is also one of my role models. She was a mathematician in a time where “women couldn’t do what men could.” She was also an African American, which made it even harder for her to get into NASA. She was determined and refused to give up.

If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?

If I had to describe myself in three words they would be: creative, intelligent, courageous.

ROSA G.

What prompted you to apply for a Space Camp scholarship?

I have been absorbed with all things outer space since first grade. The moment I learned about Space Camp, I was so excited. A place where people loved space just like me! I knew not to get my hopes up, but I still thought “what would happen if I did get the scholarship.” I pushed hope down so much that I was surprised when I was told that I got the scholarship to Space Camp! There are no words to say how happy I was.

What are you most looking forward to seeing or doing during your time at Space Camp? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

I am hoping to make new friends and learn something each hour of each day of that week. I want to be able to go back home and say, that was the best week of my life! I want to be 80 and still be able to say that was the best week of my life! I will write down everything in my diary so I never forget the best week of my life.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up and why? How do you think your Space Camp experience will help you with that goal?

I want to be a space engineer/astrophysicist when I grow up. I used to want to be an engineer related to space, but I didn’t realize until much later that there was a job that included both. When I did realize that I thought it was perfect a job where I could build things like rovers, rockets, or satellites. Space Camp would teach me everything I need to know. What are ALL the parts of a rover, rocket, or satellites? When do the different parts of a rocket separate and why?

What do you think are the most important qualities to be a good leader?

Empathy: If someone is having a problem understanding something, or doesn’t feel included, the leader should know. Responsibility: If they have a task or project to not just say “sure I will do it” and end up getting distracted. Patience/serenity: I think that it is important to keep cool and kindly talk to others, especially if you disagree over something.

Who are your heroes or role models and why?

My sister and my brother and Sir Isaac Newton. I will be honest—my brother and sister are nothing like Sir Isaac Newton, but I still look up to them. My sister and brother teach me things all the time. They tell me jokes and make me laugh. They work to help improve my habits. For example, I came back from school and they told me to do my homework until I did it. My sister even made a schedule to follow when I came back from school and I followed it until it became a habit. Now each day I do my homework the moment I get home. The reason I love Isaac Newton is his story. He came up with the three laws of motion AND the exciting part, he figured out why the sun’s gravity didn’t just pull us into it but instead made us revolve around it.

If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?

Books, Learner, Kindness. I absolutely love to read. I believe learning is very important and fun. And kindness is one of the most important things in life.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center receives hundreds of Space Camp scholarship applications every year. Potential trainees must answer two essay questions, design a mission patch, describe a science project using the scientific method or an engineering design process, and provide two letters of recommendation. To learn more, visit Space Camp scholarships.

American Girl has partnered with Space Camp on fun Luciana-themed camps this summer. To learn more, visit Space Camp.