'You can be whatever you want to be'


Rebecca Wingfield, a 2002 Caldwell County High School graduate, works as a NASA flight director at Johnson Space Center in Texas. She'll return to western Kentucky next month, serving as keynote speaker at a STEM conference at West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

A Caldwell County High School graduate will be the keynote speaker Nov. 7 during the 2019 STEM 4 Girls conference at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah.

Rebecca Wingfield is a NASA flight director at Johnson Space Center in Texas.

Wingfield oversees the planning, training and execution of human spaceflight missions. She was selected as a flight director in 2018 and is the 92nd flight director in the history of American human spaceflight.

Wingfield said she's looking forward to coming home for the conference, and appreciates the opportunity to talk about space and dreams coming true.

"As a little girl growing up in western Kentucky, I never felt limited in what I could do. I really want that same message to resonate with the girls at the event," she said. "You can be whatever you want to be is true."

Wingfield began her career at NASA as a flight controller for the International Space Station, as an Operations Support Officer, responsible for all mechanisms and maintenance performed aboard the spacecraft.

She is a 2002 graduate of CCHS, a 2007 graduate of the University of Kentucky with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering, and a 2015 graduate of the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a master's in systems engineering.

Mellisa Duncan, Challenger Learning Center director, said Wingfield is an excellent role model for all girls who are interested in STEM-related careers.

"It is even more impactful that she grew up in the west Kentucky area and now works for NASA in the very prestigious and unique role of flight director," Duncan said. "We are so excited to be able to facilitate her visit to inspire our local girls."

STEM 4 Girls is a free event that features hands-on activities and demonstrations to inspire the students to learn about educational and career choices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Registration is now open online at paducahchamber.org, under Upcoming Events. On-site registration begins at 5 p.m. Pre-registration is encouraged.