Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist
A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.
With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master's in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Simultaneously available in Spanish!
Ad Astra Per Aspera
Ms. Acevedo, scientist by training and CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, grew up in New Mexico in the 1960s and 70s. Her father was a scientist who had some personal issues, and her mother struggled with English when Sylvia was young. Her younger sister was left with learning issues after a bout with meningitis. Despite these challenges, Sylvia loves school and reading, and was determined to make life better for her family. Even though st the time, girls were not always encouraged to aim for careers, explore science, or learn to fix cars, Sylvia doggedly pursued what she liked despite meeting resistance from her teachers. Being involved in the Girl Scouts gave her opportunities she might not have had otherwise, and she was given more support for her interests, especially when a leader allowed her to pursue a badge for an older Girl Scout group when she was interested in studying space. She was also interested in band and basketball, and used the many life skills she acquired through persevering with these interests to go on to college, graduate school, and a varied career.
Acevedo must be about 8 years older than I am, so while the details of growing up at that time are spot on, the book was a little boring for me because it seemed so much like my own life! (Yes, even in 1978 there was only one girl in my class who opted out of home ec and took shop class instead!) I'm curious to see if students today will be surprised about the strictures placed on girls, and recognize that there is still a way to go before there are enough women in the scientific and technical fields.
I generally don't buy biographies or memoirs until the subjects have passed away (biography of Michael Jackson from 1984, anyone?), but a good memoir tells a story of a particular time, place, and set of circumstances that can be relevant even if the subject goes on to have a more stories career. For readers who liked the Barakat's Balcony on the Moon, Collard 's Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts: Journeys of a Biologist's Son, Saedi's Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card or Grande, 's The Distance Between Us, this is a timely and topical choice.