It’s been over 21 years since the grand opening of Space Camp Turkey. During this time, thousands of students and teachers have attended our programs. All the feedback we received from our participants motivated us to do our work even better, and also helped us to improve ourselves. Of course some of the positive feedbacks came from our beloved chaperones.

Space Camp Turkey Through The Eyes Of An Experienced Chaperone

Below is an interview we’ve conducted with one of our experienced chaperones; Mrs. Elizabeth Wahlert – Athanassiadis, Country Coordinator of Greece for Space Camp Turkey. We would like to thank her and all the other teachers/chaperones very much and hope to have many more collaborations together. 

 

When did you first attend a program at Space Camp Turkey? Do you remember your feelings at that time?

In January of 2003, I accepted an invitation from ESBAS and Space Camp Turkey (SCT) to come to Izmir, visit the premises and meet the organizers of the programme. My enthusiastic interest in SCT and the scholarship programme resulted in the opportunity to award scholarships to ten deserving teenagers from Athens, Greece and my responsibility for them when we came to SCT in July of 2003. My close professional and personal affiliation with SCT has spanned seventeen years. I remember all of the students who were members of that original team from Athens. They are now 28 years old and are leaders in their chosen professions. Some live and work in Greece, but the vast majority of these young adults have chosen to live and work abroad.

What were the reactions / impressions of the first group of students you brought? Are you still in touch with some of them?

Our first SCT MISSION in July of 2003 was unforgettable and truly unique. Student participants and their educator coordinators had come from the four corners of the globe; New York, California, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Israel among others. To this day, those who were members of the Greek delegation talk about that experience. Extensive and meticulous arrangements had been made to make it possible for the students to ask questions to the astronauts who were on a space mission orbiting over Turkey. The excitement was electric among everyone at SCT as the connection was made and the students asked their carefully written questions and received answers from the astronauts in space. Filming of the activities of that week resulted in a DVD that we were given and which I still treasure as a visual reminder of that truly amazing world class experience.

That same summer, in July of 2003, Bill Stavroulakis, who was a member of that first SCT MISSION from Greece, was given the Outstanding Camper medal. Bill Stavroulakis holds a degree from the National Technical University of Athens and currently lives in San Francisco, California. He is the Senior Software Engineer at a company designing self-driving automobiles that will be the wave of the future in the automotive industry. Another young woman who was a member of our first SCT team found the experience to be life changing and went on to pursue her interest in Physics at an outstanding university in Scotland. She received a PhD in Robotics with an affiliation with the needs of the international space exploration programmes.

How many times and in which programs have you participated over the years? What were your impressions as an educator?

In conversing with other SCT chaperones from around the world , I have detected a certain amount of surprise and disbelief when I tell them that I have organized Greek SCT teams and personally brought them to SCT on at least fourteen different occasions. As an international educator, it is important to learn from young people by communicating with them, observing them in real life learning experiences, and watching them interact with other teenagers from around the world while assuming leadership roles in team based activities. It is through the SCT experience that we as educators envision the futures of our students who have been chosen to receive SCT scholarships. Most have gone on to realize my dreams for their futures. Several have received PhDs from reputable universities in Europe and the United States in the fields of Astrophysics and Robotics with a focus on space technology and exploration. Others have won international grants for projects relating to Physics and high power telescopes. I am proud to say that all have gone on to be leaders in their chosen professions and careers.

Can you share a memory you have from your days at Space Camp Turkey?

The numerous memories of my SCT experiences have given me considerable pride and joy as an international educator. Most significantly, I am proud of all the Greek scholarship recipients, but in particular those who, on six different occasions, have been awarded either the Outstanding Camper medal or the Right Stuff medal at graduation ceremonies at the end of their Space Camp Turkey experiences.

Do you have a message for families and children who want to participate in the programs?

Over the course of the past seventeen years, hundreds of deserving Greek teenagers from the Athens metropolitan area have had the opportunity to participate in the 6 day International Space Camp Turkey programme. Each one of these students has acknowledged that this was a world class learning experience. Some of the teenagers decided to return and participate in the programme more than once. In fact, one young man took part in four SCT summer experiences and served as a student leader for four consecutive years. He had his own mission . . . he wanted to be selected as the Outstanding Camper. On his fourth and final mission he realized his personal goal and SCT mission!

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