Vicky Garcia, 32, was born deaf, and today she's a systems engineer working for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. She's won awards for her work, operated labs and worked with NASA interns. Garcia spent Wednesday morning talking about her job and her life with deaf kids at a special Space Camp for hard-of-hearing students at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. She used both speech and sign language to communicate. The following is taken from her remarks and a Q&A afterward.
Q: Why do you come to speak to events like this?
A: A lot of people are very surprised when they find out that a deaf engineer works at NASA. Some kids have come up to me, "Wow, I didn't know that we could work at NASA." To be honest, I hate public speaking, but if I just inspire one kid, it's worth it.
Q: What inspired you?
A. Life (laughs). My mom really pushed me. She's the type of person that, "You're deaf, so what? Too bad. Now what? That is not an excuse." So, she would tell me the sky is the limit. So I have a joke that I'm beyond the skies now; I work for NASA. My mom has really inspired me a lot.
Q: Still, it must have been challenging.
A: Yes, but I enjoy problem solving and learning about things. I take it upon myself to teach myself things. So there's a unique part of me that wants to learn. I just have to find a different way of doing things ... and then you find courage.
Q: Can you give an example?
A: In meetings, I'd be lost. In meetings, people talk with each other and talk at the same time. So, I started standing up and saying, hey, one person speaks at a time. You have to find ways around things, and that gives you an extra skill.
Garcia spoke to space campers at a special annual camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Some graduates later attend the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute for Technology to pursue engineering and other technical fields. More than 2,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing students have attended the camp since it was started in 1987.