In 2000, I attended SSP. I went in as a bright high school student with a love for space science; I came out having been academically challenged for the first time in my life. My parents were shocked, and I was exhilarated. During the next few years, I became ever more grateful for the alumni network this program included me in, access to decades of undergraduates, graduates, and faculty from major universities around the country (now around the world!) in a huge diversity of fields. Later, as a young professional, I turned to this network again, looking for mentors, experience, and ideas. It has never let me down, and I try to give back every chance I get. I'm now an annual guest speaker for the program, taking vacation time to talk with students about non-orthodox science and technology careers, about the value of asking and being creative in getting new experiences, and, quite honestly, to give myself a yearly boost of enthusiasm and optimism brought on by staying up far too late collectively dreaming about inventing new technology inspired by science fiction.
I served as a faculty member at SSP during the summer of 2012. My impression was that all of the students profited greatly from the experience. The most dramatic part was the personal growth that they experienced during the program. From talking to the students and hearing their comments I know that many were able to clarify their career goals and to consider whether a career in science was the path they wanted to pursue. Whether they decided to continue to follow their interest in science or to think about another career, the program was a water shed in their development.