Rocket science and residential treatment? Oh, yeah!
In 1962, with NASA barely four years old, President Kennedy declared the United States’ determination to land a man on the moon, saying boldly that we choose to do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because [they] will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
At Discovery Ranch for Girls, we may not be trying to get to the moon, but with a similar sense of challenge and excitement, we are working to build and launch lives like rockets into the once impossible future. In the past two weeks, that challenge took tangible form as students painstakingly put together their own model rockets leading up to our launch day on September 13.
Ms. Baker, like our own Gene Kranz, led the girls fearlessly into this unfamiliar field. Though an expert herself–she has been building model rockets for fifteen years–she pointed out that “it’s one of those hobbies that not a lot of people do, and those who do are boys.” For most of the girls, then, this was a unique, previously un-experienced adventure from start to finish. In spite of this, or maybe to a large extent because of it, the students carried out this project with great brio, with interest and enthusiasm. It’s not just boys who dream, at some point, of being an astronaut and love, at all points, staring up into a sky full of stars. After collecting her rocket from the roof of a neighboring house, one girl declared her intention to send it home, “so I can do it again.” As Ms. Baker said, “No matter who you are, there’s this excitement about launching. When you see it, you can’t help but smile and say that was something that was really awesome.”
The feeling that shot through us all–of exhilaration and joy–as we watched each rocket explode upward, changing from an amalgam of mundane bits of wood and cardboard to a soaring, speeding, stream-lined expression of pure energy, is probably as familiar to those of us who work in the field of residential treatment as to employees of NASA. Every time a student discovers their own energy and zest for life, things that are packed into them like a rocket engine, we witness a similar brilliant transformation (sometimes all at once and sometimes in slow motion) and we experience a similar eruption of hope and loss and anxiety and excitement and pure wonder.
“It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” –Robert H. Goddard (ground-breaking rocket scientist)