By: Isaiah Showell, Follow South Jersey Multimedia Journalist/’What’s Good’ Host
WOODBURY HEIGHTS, N.J — Steve Squyres, renowned astronomer, planetary scientist, and current scientific Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Project, came to speak at Gateway Regional High School via Zoom to share his career journey with the aviation club as part of the Gateway 2 Careers program. The aviation club prepares students for any type of career in aviation, remote private certification is offered through this program as well.
Melissa Eckstein, the district career facilitator at Gateway Regional, invited Squyres to share his professional journey with the students since he was a part of the crew who put a rover on the planet Mars, plus Squyres graduated from Gateway Regional several decades ago.
“We run a pretty robust career program here especially for a small school and we’re all about connecting the students and inspiring the students about all kinds of future careers,” said Eckstein.
“What I’m hoping is that they see there are infinite possibilities for anyone who is willing to work hard and not give up and really be an entrepreneur and really be someone who thinks outside of the box who is confident enough to try new things and surrounds themselves with good people and in the end just never stops working hard,” Eckstein added.
Squyres shared a personal story about how he had to work exceptionally hard at track and field while at Gateway Regional and the coaching lessons he received from his coach Folocarelli stayed with him for years.
“Joe Folocarelli was my cross country and track coach and my AP Biology teacher at Gateway, Science and Math came easily to me but I was not a naturally gifted runner, track and field and cross country was something I really had to work hard at to be successful,” said Squyres.
“He knew all the right buttons to push to make me go harder and faster it was the first thing I had to work my tail off to be reasonably good at, the lesson about working hard to achieve I learned from him at Gateway and it served me very well for the rest of my life,” he added.
As Squyres wrapped up his session, several students shared their positive feedback from their exchange with him.
“I just really liked his message on the examples he showed of how yeah he put rovers on Mars but he still doubted himself in the process,” said Gateway Regional Senior Katherine Eimer. “He almost missed the deadline but he did it and he’s proud of what he did and I like how he’s coming back to educate younger people about what they can do and what’s possible for them.”
“I really just thought what he was talking about was amazing and I really liked how he really got into every single question everything he said was just interesting,” said Danny Washlick a sophomore at Gateway Regional. “There’s a window that he opened that I can look in and it’s full of possibilities that I can involve myself in.”
“He inspires me to keep trying and to keep working,” said Mia Wenglicki Middle School student at Gateway Regional. “He inspires me. He said when things get tough keep doing hard work and persevere.” Musician and Gateway Regional alumni Winston Byrd was also in attendance at this event to support the aviation club and be a part of an event that pours into South Jersey youth.
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