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VALHEN Hispanic College Institute to Host NASA Astronaut

This week, the Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN) has hosted students in a highly successful residential program, the Hispanic College Institute (HCI) at Virginia State University in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Rising high school juniors, seniors, and middle school students from Virginia have been involved in special math and science instruction, college prep information and professionalism seminars. A special highlight for the week occurs on Friday when NASA AstronautDr. Serena Auñón shares her journey and insights with students. Read on to discover more (including a WCVE Public Radio Science Matters Report by John Ogle below).

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón will discuss her personal experiences and the future of NASA's human spaceflight program when she meets with first generation Hispanic students during a hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workshop on Friday. Auñón was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009 and completed astronaut candidacy training in 2011. She serves as a flight surgeon at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“We wish to express our appreciation to NASA, our sponsors and collaborators, and Dr. Keith T. Miller, president of Virginia State University, for their unwavering support to ensure Hispanic and Latino students in the Commonwealth have an opportunity to take advantage of this excellent college-access preparation program,” said Dr. Mirta M. Martin, VALHEN President, Chair of the HCI program, and Dean of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at VSU.

The Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN) is the only state-wide, non-profit, 501(c) (3) organization which supports, promotes, and advocates for Latino success and advancement in higher education, to ensure that every Latino in Virginia is college and career ready for the benefit and betterment of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The HCI program provides college application and financial aid information and allows first-generation students the opportunity to engage with successful leaders and role models to learn about career and educational opportunities. The program is free to students who are recruited from all of Virginia. The program’s goal is to equip students with the skills necessary to successfully apply to college, persist towards a college degree, and be career ready and able to succeed in the workforce.

NASA’s participation this year is part of its Summer of Innovation (SOI) project, designed to improve the skills and enhance the engagement of America’s students in STEM. Throughout the institute, employees from NASA’s Langley Research Center, located in Hampton, Virginia, provided NASA-related STEM activities and information about career options related to STEM.

Questions?  Contact Dr. Mirta Martin, Chair of HCI, President of VALHEN and Dean of the Business School of Virginia State University at

Video from HCI 2012

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