Student Charlene Luna participates in NASA Virtual Experience

The NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program selected Yakima Valley College student Charlene Luna of Wapato to attend the NCAS Virtual Experience this spring.

Luna joined community college students from across the country to participate in the virtual experience.

Selected students learn more about NASA’s missions and careers in science and engineering throughout the virtual experience. Students form teams and design a mission to explore the Moon or Mars. Each student team joins a design team, fulfills a team role, manages a budget and develops communication and outreach strategies. Students also attend events hosted by NASA subject matter experts, receive information on how to apply for NASA internships and virtually tour NASA’s unique facilities during the event.

Luna has strived to challenge herself, often taking advanced courses while in high school, as she’s prepared to transfer to a university and continue her education after YVC.

“I have been taking courses to get closer to receiving my degree from a university as well as participating in undergraduate research opportunities,” said Luna, noting how difficult it can be to navigate resources while being a low-income, first-generation student.

“Being accepted into the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar (NCAS) program makes me realize that regardless of your background, it does not determine or limit your success,” she said. “Being accepted into this program means there are more opportunities out there for students like me.”

Luna will continue her education in the fall at Washington State University.

“Charlene is a student you always enjoy seeing on campus, I often find her studying and she is always smiling,” said YVC Interim STEM Director Cristy Rasmussen. “She is driven and yet balanced. Charlene manages her time well to accommodate both her high school activities and YVC campus life. She is going to do very well on the WSU campus in fall.”

The Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, funds NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars. MUREP commits to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in STEM disciplines with authentic learning experiences to sustain a diverse workforce.

With this activity, NASA continues the tradition of engaging the nation in its mission of human exploration and sustainable expansion across the solar system and bringing new knowledge and opportunities back to Earth.

“NCAS inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, and it also opens doors for future careers at NASA. NCAS alumni can often move on to NASA internships and possibly ultimately enter the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see the progression of a student from NCAS participant to NASA colleague,” says Torry Johnson, MUREP Manager. Learn more about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars.

Luna is the second YVC student to participate in the program this year. Student Carlos Trejo participated in the program in February

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /