Sixteen special needs students from North Alabama and southern Tennessee are
spending part of their summer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala. – helping to narrow their career choices and to learn about
professional conduct in the workplace.

The Future Assets, Student Talent or FAST program is a high school career
development effort to motivate and prepare students with disabilities to
further their education and achieve professional careers in high technology
fields. The Marshall Center, partnering with Alabama A&M University in
Huntsville, Alabama state rehabilitation services and NASA, has sponsored
FAST since 1985.

To be considered for the FAST program, students in grades 7 through 12 must
have special needs due to such disabilities as hearing or visual impairment,
learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, paralysis,
epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or other chronic illnesses. A
student must have at least a “C” average and the potential to seek higher
education. Once a student is accepted in the program, he or she may
participate throughout college.

Some FAST students will be assigned to a volunteer mentor at the Marshall
Center, giving each student one-on-one direction. This is found to help a
student master professional conduct, while exploring career options. Other
FAST students will work with two professionals in different career fields to
learn about different working environments and gain knowledge about
different jobs.

The students are encouraged to absorb as much as possible about the missions
and work at the Marshall Center. The program exposes them to Marshall’s
research, its world-class laboratories and test facilities, and experts.
Based on a 1983 pilot program in the Los Angeles, Calif., school system, the
FAST program began in the Huntsville area through a partnership of the
Alabama Department of Education, state rehabilitation services and President
Ronald Reagan’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

NASA uses its unique resources, whenever possible, to support educational
excellence, since education is a key element in its overall mission. NASA
participates in educational outreach programs through field centers around
the country.

More information on educational opportunities with the Marshall Center can
be found at: