by Rebecca Endres
Starting out with an internship at the Long Island Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City was one small step for senior and aspiring educator Alexandra Wurglics. Interning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum the following summer, and seeing one of her projects become a permanent fixture there, was a giant leap in the right direction.
Wurglics’ time interning at the Smithsonian coincided with a huge milestone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): New Horizons, a probe sent out into space almost a decade ago, neared its closest point to Pluto, taking pictures of the dwarf planet and gathering information about its atmosphere.
To commemorate and promote the mission, Wurglics was assigned the task of creating an activity to introduce New Horizons’ discoveries to the public.
“Guess That Planet,” an interactive game for all ages, tests visitors’ knowledge of the planets in our solar system. Museumgoers can guess how recent photos of Pluto are, some of which are from New Horizon. Participants also learn about the surfaces and atmospheres of different planets.
“My supervisor suggested I adapt the activity to make it an official discovery station at the museum,” Wurglics explained. “I reworked the wording a bit so it could be presented at any time.”
Though her internship ended in August, the activity continues to be presented to countless visitors who pass through the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. “Even though I was home I was able to leave a little bit of my hard work at the Smithsonian,” she said. “That was just so incredible.”
One summer earlier, Wurglics was interning at another museum, laying the foundation for what was to come. With the help of Adelphi’s Center for Career Development, she was accepted into the Jaggar Community Fellows Program. Through the program, she began interning at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, which is dedicated to commemorating Long Island’s role in the history of flight. There, she helped run activities and projects to teach groups of secondary school children about the sciences.
Museum work was an ideal fit for Wurglics, a history major and anthropology minor in the Scholar Teacher Education Program (S.T.E.P.). Working with groups of children was beneficial for the aspiring educator, and the skills she learned soon carried over into an even bigger opportunity.
“I thought nothing could be better than my internship at the Cradle of Aviation,” Wurglics admitted. But with the skills she had acquired and added to her résumé, she ended up with the Smithsonian internship.
“We were just so proud of her,” said Karen Parish-Autry, assistant director of employer relations at the Center for Career Development. “I was her liaison when she did the Community Fellows Program, and when she told me she was interning at the Smithsonian, I was jumping up and down in excitement for her.”
Splitting her time between the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the affiliated Udvar-Hazy Center, Wurglics worked closely with high school volunteers in both centers, helping to train them to interact with visitors. As time went on, she was given more responsibilities.
“My supervisor knew that I want to be a teacher and she let me do an outreach,” Wurglics said. “So I went to an incoming third-grade classroom and talked to the kids about the Wright brothers. That was my first introduction to being in a classroom and I’m glad my supervisor pushed me forward.”
Wurglics’ success epitomizes the goals of the Center for Career Development and its newest initiative, Preparation, Reflection, Experiential Learning, Planning (P.R.E.P.). “We’re trying to get students involved early and often so we can build personal relationships and find what their strengths are—giving them personal stepping stones to find their niche,” explained Thomas J. Ward Jr., executive director of the Center for Career Development. “We are all very proud of Alexandra.”
That combination of hard work and drive has laid a foundation for what’s to come for Wurglics.
“I jumped out of bed every day with a smile on my face, ready to work,” she said. “I’m certain that the experiences I have developed will propel me on to even greater things.”
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