Johnson Space Center’s community engagement at Port City Links’ Health, Education, Science Fair and Carnival
NASA’s Johnson Space Center is doing things differently when it comes to community partnerships and stewardship by getting more involved in our own backyard through employee-led outreach. On March 4, center volunteers rolled into action at the Port City Links’ annual Health, Education, Science Fair and Carnival at Sunnyside Park, south of downtown Houston.
JSC Programs Resources Management Division Chief Donna Blackshear-Reynolds was at the helm as vice president of Programs for the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc., which is a woman-run friendship and service organization focused on giving back to Houstonians in need.
Now in its 12th year, the fair brought together vendors from around Houston to deliver free fun, food and learning to children gathered for South Central Sportz’s (SCS’) spring season opening day. SCS’ 15 youth baseball teams all call Sunnyside Park home, and the event also offered students across the community a chance to showcase their winning projects from a prestigious Port City Links science fair. The celebration hosted some 800 attendees of all ages.
“I first saw an opportunity for us to host a fair as my own son and daughter participated in youth baseball at the park,” Blackshear-Reynolds said. “As the event grew over the years, I was able to tie in my own work with NASA to the work the fair was doing. My favorite part of the event is being able to say to our attendees, ‘Here’s a judge, here’s a lawyer, here’s a businessperson and a NASA engineer. You can do anything you want with your life. You can come work for NASA!’”
Several special guests were there to cheer fairgoers, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Congressman Al Green, Schlumberger’s Global Director of Corporate and Social Responsibility Paula Harris, Houston Independent School District School Board President Wanda Adams and Texas Southern University President Austin Lane. The event is also sponsored by City Councilmember Dwight Boykins, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the Astros, Texas Southern University, and dozens of local businesses and community leaders.
Although Johnson has participated in the fair in years past, the center’s 2017 involvement introduced the Office of Education’s Driven to Explore mobile exhibit to the fair for the first time, bringing human space exploration to the community through an immersive, multimedia experience. With a full-length poster of “Hidden Figures” on hand for family photo opportunities and wall-poster door prizes, volunteers also spent time sharing the proud and successful history of women and African-Americans at NASA.
Appearing alongside the Astros’ Literacy Bus, Schlumberger’s “I Want to Be an Engineer” exhibit, free health screenings and summer camp booths, Johnson’s exhibit prompted young people to become an active part of the Mars generation by choosing STEM or STEM-supporting careers. Above all, the event highlighted the importance of diversity in STEM and sought to connect young people with role models and opportunities for teamwork.
Volunteers from Johnson Space Center enhance the outreach experience. From left: Charlie Voorhies, Kathryn McLaurin and Greg Dorth. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
The inspirational impact of this and other Houston youth-outreach events accelerate JSC’s mission locally by building the diverse recruitment pool needed to take exploration further than ever before. “Houston is one of the most diverse cities in America,” Blackshear-Reynolds said. “We must pull talent from all of our neighborhoods [to lead human space exploration].”
Next year’s event is already in the works for March 24, and JSC team members are encouraged to get involved by volunteering through V-CORPs
NASA Johnson Space Center
From left: Mary Auzenne, Congressman Al Green, Astros former pitcher J.R. Richard, City Councilmember Amanda Edwards, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Donna Blackshear-Reynolds with South Central Sportz players Mundre Randle (gold shirt) and Charon Lewis Jr. (orange shirt). Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
Students today, astronauts tomorrow! Johnson brings space exploration to tomorrow’s Mars generation. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
Houston’s youngest citizens learn about human space exploration from Janet Stewart with Johnson's Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the Driven to Explore mobile exhibit. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
From left, chair of JSC’s African-American Employee Resource Group Orlando Horton with Lauren Johnson. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
From left: President of Port City Links Sabrina Loeb, Congressman Al Green, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, JSC Programs Resources Management Division Chief Donna Blackshear-Reynolds and JSC ISS Manager Greg Dorth. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.
We are Houstonians: Leaders from around the city attended the annual Health, Education, Science Fair and Carnival. Image courtesy of the Port City Chapter of The Links, Inc.