I was born on April 9, 1985, in a small town on Long Island, New York, called Roosevelt. I spent my entire childhood in this small family-oriented community and attended the Roosevelt Public Schools from pre-kindergarten to high school. Unlike many, I did not grow up with the desire to become an engineer. In fact, I did not know what an engineer was until the 12th grade, when I started to seek possible majors for college. As a child, I dreamt of becoming a basketball superstar. I admired basketball players such as Teresa Weatherspoon, Cynthia Cooper, and Teresa Edwards. In the seventh grade, I tried out for the high school girls’ varsity team and made the cut. By the 9th grade, I was captain of the team. I also played National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Women’s basketball in college as a walk-on player. Prior to my senior year of high school, I did not think much about college. It was just a minor thought in the back of my mind. I knew I was going to attend college, but I did not know which school or major to pursue. So, I polled my teachers and mentors for ideas. Since I was gifted with exceptional artistic ability, my art teacher thought it would be fitting to pursue further education at an institution with a stellar art program. Others suggested that I pursue a degree in one of the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines because I excelled in all my math and science courses. I remember one teacher suggested that I use my math, science, and creativity skills to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. It was at this point that I decided to do some research to find out if this would be a fitting career field. I asked one of my science teachers what he thought about the idea. He looked me in the eye and told me that I should stick to art because the science and math classes would be too hard for me in college. At that moment, I knew exactly what degree I was going to pursue in college: a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Instead of becoming discouraged by his words, I considered it a challenge and used it as fuel to feed the burning desire in me that wanted to prove him wrong. I went on to not only earn a bachelor’s, but a master’s degree as well.
I am proud to be the first in my family to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree (I also aim to be the first to attain a PhD). Growing up in the poorest town on Long Island and receiving a second-class education did not hinder me from achieving success in endeavors I pursued. It bothers me when I witness people accepting mediocrity in life. During my childhood, I was fortunate to have more people in my life who spoke positive words in my ears than those who spoke negative. These people did not allow me to accept mediocrity from myself. They pushed me to limits I thought I could never cross and I am forever thankful. I believe everyone has a dream, a passion, a desire for something great in life. But it takes courage, faith, and diligence to achieve it.
When Sabrina Thompson was trying to decide on a college major, one of her high school teachers informed her that the science and math courses required for a mechanical engineering degree would be too hard for her. Instead of taking his advice, she accepted it as a challenge and set out to prove him wrong. And, indeed, she did. Today, Ms. Thompson works in the Navigation and Mission Design Branch at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously, she worked with a team of safety experts to keep the brilliant minds at NASA safe and protected in the workplace by identifying potential hazards and creating solutions to mitigate them. Throughout her career, she has remained passionate about innovation, space exploration and having a positive impact on society. She encourages the next generation to pursue their dreams or passion and refuse to settle for less than they are capable of achieving, just as many of those around her wouldn’t let her settle. “They pushed me to limits I thought I could never cross and I am forever thankful,” she said. Ms. Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York, and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia.