Sarah-James Miles, a Flat Lick native and 2015 graduate of Knox Central High School, recently earned the experience of a lifetime. During her summer break, Miles kept her mind busy with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] internship. Miles has one statement to Knox County’s youth concerning her internship:
“If some little girl from Flat Lick, Kentucky can go to NASA and do well, [you] can too.”
Miles originally applied for the NASA internship in January 2017. She recalls feeling nervous about the application process but still chose to take the risk, citing that without any risks in life, one will never open themselves up to potential rewards.
“One thing I was kind of discouraged about in the beginning was that I thought there was no way anyone from small town Barbourville could do it. I just applied and they gave me a call and interviewed me and it went well,” said Miles.
The risk certainly proved worthwhile. Miles was one of four applicants selected to intern with NASA during the 2017 summer at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Other interns were from Manhattan, Beverly Hills and Houston, Tx.
Miles and her intern group participated in several activities including working on a rocket that launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Their main project over the summer was a four-day STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp, though.
Called Junior Game Changers Camp, Miles and her group created the camp from the ground up.
“Our mission was to create this camp that is a STEM based camp…for kids who were underrepresented or came from poor areas in Virginia. We took these kids in for a four-day camp and planned all the lessons out, planned transportation and planned food. We did everything from smallest logistics to the actual camp itself,” said Miles.
Miles specifically worked on managing visitors, speakers and the agenda for the camp.
The internship came with a unique set of challenges, all which Miles thinks will help strengthen her future endeavors.
“If I ever have to learn how to do project management, I think it’s going to help me in that endeavor more than anything because that’s really what this internship was, was learning how to manage an entire project by yourself. I think it gave me a lot of networking abilities, too,” continued Miles.
Miles, currently a physics major at Centre College, hopes the intern experience and her STEM background will help her eventually obtain a patent or technology law degree.
“I really want to go to law school because I have really strong public speaking and writing skills. I really enjoy STEM. I like the physics and the math but I struggle with it. I have to work really hard just to keep my head above water,” admitted Miles. “If I can go to law school and try to pursue a patent law degree or a technology law degree, I’m going to be able to use not only my STEM background but I can use the skills I already have like writing, reading and public speaking.”
Overall, Miles would like to see local youth take more opportunities such as internships like hers to build Knox County up.
“People from here, they think they can’t get out if they need to or they look down on getting out. I think if you really want to do something in STEM and you really want this place to flourish, you have to get out at some point…You have to start somewhere,” said Miles. “[Local youth] can’t put themselves down. If they want more STEM related jobs to come here or if they want Barbourville to be more flourishing than it is now, then they have to get out and bring that back themselves.”