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‘I Can Do Anything’

Blind student goes to space camp


There’s a slogan used at Space Camp for visually impaired students that resonates with ninth-grader Brenna Stachnik: “Just because I can’t see the stars doesn’t mean I can’t reach for them.”

Wearing space gear was part of the Space Camp experience

“It means that I can do anything,” Brenna said.

Brenna attended Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students Sept. 23-29 in Huntsville, Alabama. She was one of 174 visually impaired students selected to attend from all over the world, including another Michigan student, from Lansing.

To apply, she wrote an essay while at Camp Tuhsmeheta, a camp for visually impaired students in Greenville, on why she should be picked to go. She wrote about Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, and about the Challenger space shuttle, which exploded in 1986.

Born prematurely, Brenna’s visual impairment was caused by retinopathy of prematurity.

“I can see shapes and colors,” she said. “I can’t see far.” She reads in regular or large print and gets by with little assistance. “I have a cane. I just don’t use it.”

High School resource room teacher Kaycee Kuiper said Brenna “just works really hard and overcomes a lot with her visual difficulties, so for her to have a chance to be around kids who share the same struggles and are interested in the same things was a really cool opportunity for her.”

Brenna Stachnik tries out a 1/6th gravity chair

At Space Camp, Brenna participated in missions and wore space gear. “It was kind of hard to walk in,” she said. She also scuba-dived in an indoor pool and experienced a 1/6th gravity chair that simulates the feeling of being in space. She slept in a room called a Habitat.

“My favorite mission was when I was a flight engineer and I had to be hooked to a harness,” she recalled. “I was 10 to 20 feet above the ground and I had to fix stuff.”

The daughter of Diane and Dan Stachnik said she met visually impaired people who work at NASA, which was inspiring.

“Maybe I want to work at NASA,” she said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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