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  • Writer's pictureCollege 1st Program

La Joya ISD Migrant Students Launch Rockets at Planetarium

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

High school students of La Joya ISD Migrant Education Program gather around outside of the La Joya ISD Planetarium to witness the launch one of the many rockets crafted during the CAMP. Photo by: Ramon Perez

Written By: Abigail M. Avila

LA JOYA, TX- Just ninety miles from the newly built SpaceX in Brownsville, TX, and fifty miles from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Harlingen, TX, La Joya ISD Migrant Students make their way to La Joya ISD planetarium for an out-of-this-world experience. Over three days, Elementary, Middle, and High School Migrant students had the opportunity to participate in the Space Exploration CAMP (Career Awareness and Mentorship Program), an initiative developed by La Joya ISD Migrant Education Program in partnership with the College 1st Program. Each morning, chattering students filled the facility, ready to participate in the highly interactive activities planned for the CAMP. At each end of day, students left with a smiling face and new ideas about the potential future they can have.

“My experience was great! I feel inspired to go to college. We went deep into understanding space exploration and it’s motivating me to be an astronaut. I’m hoping that one day I can go to space and perform more research on the things still don’t know, but may exist.” Jerry Herrera, La Joya ISD Migrant Student, said.

La Joya ISD embraces the vision: “Educational Excellence is the Right of Every Student.” In their commitment to their vision, implementing CAMPs like Space Exploration can serve as a unique pathway to excellence for students that may not have considered Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) careers.

“This [CAMP] is definitely motivating students to go to college because we might not be aware that these careers exist. The activities that College 1st brings here are so fun and that sparks an interest all of us to continue to pursue a career in the STEM field,” Erik Ibarra, La Joya ISD Migrant Student, said.

As Erik expressed, many students were in fact motivated to pursue this career path.

“This CAMP was amazing because it inspired look more into engineering. I have never built a rocket before and now I feel like this could be something I want to do for the rest of my life. I am inspired to go to college to be an engineer,” Dasia Garza, La Joya ISD Migrant Student, said.

Five students of La Joya ISD’s Migrant Program students take turns to race the rover across the obstacle course. The rover is programmed to be able to be operated by an application on the cell phone. Photo by: Ramon Perez.

Students in the CAMP were surprised to learn that well-within their lifetime, travel to other planets and moons and actually living somewhere other than Earth is now a possibility for humankind.

“I feel inspired to go to college and get an education that will help me reach my dreams. It’s motivating me to become an astronaut and visit the unknown.” Jerry Herrera, La Joya ISD Migrant Student, said.

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

SpaceX currently has special projects in development close to Brownsville and are currently testing in the quiet area of Boca Chica.

“If all goes according to plan, the [Starship] launch system could stand nearly 400 feet tall, lower the cost of accessing space by a factor of 10, and enable humanity to walk upon Mars in the mid-2020s and build a sustainable city there in the 2050s,” Business Insider said in reference to SpaceX.

Since SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) are relatively close to home for residents in the Rio Grande Valley, students from the area have a high potential of being involved in paving the way towards such technological advancement. Although not all students expressed interest in actual travel to outer space, their interest in contributing to the engineering needed was evident.

“Launching the rockets outside was definitely exciting, it helps a lot with team collaboration by building the rocket together. This CAMP has definitely inspired me to become an engineer in the future. It’s something very fun and hands-on, which personally I believe it is the best way to learn.” Erik Ibarra, La Joya ISD Migrant Student, said.

The activities at the CAMP are more than just engaging and fun for the students, they are activities based on the kind of real-life experiences the students can expect from working in the field of Space Exploration.

“One of the activities that inspired me to become an engineer was the Drone Challenge. It was fascinating being able to watch and control the movement of the drone” concluded Dasia Garza.

As drones continuously evolve technologically, their use expands beyond play. According to NASA, exploration mission Dragonfly is in the works to explore Saturn’s moon, Titan. The mission will operate machines by hand that are very similar to drones to explore the surface of Titan, whose environment and atmosphere may be similar to early Earth. This exploration could potentially help us understand how our Earth began.

Osbel Garza, freshman, participates in his favorite activity of the day: flying the drone. An audience watches as Osbel steadily flies his drone through an obstacle hoop. Photo by: Ramon Perez.

With SpaceX and the ULA already here in the Rio Grande Valley, possible internship opportunities offered by the organizations are accessible to students if they commit and continue on the college and career ready path.

“SpaceX is like Special Forces… we do the missions that others think are impossible. We have goals that are absurdly ambitious by any reasonable standard, but we’re going to make them happen. We have the potential here at SpaceX to have an incredible effect on the future of humanity and life itself,” Elon Musk said, according to the SpaceX website.

The student stimulus received from this CAMP truly showed the partnership between La Joya ISD and the College 1st Program aims to obtain. The students left with a hopeful mindset and new aspirations. This Space Exploration CAMP shed light into prospective engineers and other jobs in the space exploration realm.

For more information on La Joya ISD Migrant Education Program, please call them at 956-323-2561 or visit their website at College 1st is a program founded in 2013 in the Rio Grande Valley to empower students for college and career success. For more details about the program, please visit our website at

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