Samantha Nuñez of Manatí, Puerto Rico, is the first student in Puerto Rico to receive an early acceptance from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Nuñez, who is just 16 years old, plans to be a Nuclear Engineering Officer.
Nuclear engineering involves the design and application of nuclear power in ships and submarines, as well as medical research and treatment and energy production. It is a challenging and highly technical field used in military applications as well as many more areas.
Nuñez is a senior at the Robinson School in San Juan. “I have spent my whole life preparing myself to be the best candidate for the Naval Academy. It all began with Space Camp, that’s where I fell in love with the sciences,” she told TeleOnce. “To all the women out there, you can accomplish anything you want, whatever you put your mind to.”
Nuñez credits her family with providing her the opportunities and support she needed to reach her goal of early acceptance at the Naval Academy.
She has also had some advantages. Robinson School is a bilingual International Baccalaureate school with programs for preschool through 12th grade. 100% of students graduating from this school go on to a four year college. With tuition set at $16,760 per year, which is more than the per capita annual income on the Island, Robinson School is not accessible to everyone. However, it offers a highly competitive education for its students.
Robinson School sends 9th grade students to NASA’s Space Camp and Space Academy. While we do not know which Space Camp Nuñez visited, Arecibo Observatory had a very highly regarded Space Camp and Space Academy. The Space Camp is not currently operating, because of the collapse of the observatory following Hurricane Maria, but many young people in Puerto Rico were inspired by this exceptional scientific facility. There is also a Space Camp in Alabama.
We mention these facts not to diminish the excellence and dedication of this phenomenal student, but to remind our readers that many young people in Puerto Rico have limited opportunities.
A level playing field?
We believe that Nuñez shows that, given the opportunities young people have in the states, the young people of Puerto Rico can accomplish great things in even greater numbers. Puerto Ricans are already represented in the arts and sciences, in public service including military service, and particularly in space-related fields. Joseph M. Acaba is the first Puerto Rican astronaut, but more than 70 Puerto Ricans work for NASA in the U.S. Space Program. Puerto Rican college students designed a satellite launched in a SpaceX mission. The U.S. Space Force and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez established an educational partnership last year.
With the level playing field statehood would provide, Puerto Rico could finally fulfill the potential we know is there. In honor of Samantha Nuñez, reach out to your representatives and ask them to support a resolution of Puerto Rico’s political status.