NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

Violetta Chistyakova: Overcoming Challenges to Make Dreams Come True

Violetta ChistyakovaAmericans learn math differently from Russians, according to Violetta Chistyakova, a student at the American River College and native of Krasnodar, Russia. The different teaching style, culture shock of America, and an enormous first semester workload led Chistyakova to fail her first American math class.

But she didn't fail her second one. Or her third. Or any after that. In fact, Chistyakova applied to and completed the five-week NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program, performing so well in the program that she was invited to spend three days at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab to learn what it's like to be a NASA employee.

Of all people, it was her math professor who told her about NCAS. He sent her an email that read something like: "This is an opportunity to apply to an online NASA course, and if you complete it with good results, you'll get to visit NASA."

It sounded like a challenge, and Chistyakova loves challenges.

With challenges, Chistyakova explains, people become better versions of themselves. Challenges show us both our strengths and weaknesses, and teach us how to overcome our limits.

The five-week online course was a challenge for Chistyakova. The work was more difficult because she was still adjusting to American culture and language as well as working through the grief of her friend passing away during the semester.

Chistyakova thought about giving up, but when opportunity knocked, Chistyakova answered. She wasn’t going to shut the door now simply because the course was challenging. Her persistence paid off.

During her three-day, all-expenses-paid NASA experience, Chistyakova designed a rover. Her team of nine mimicked NASA's own project structure: employees rarely work alone.

Chistyakova recalls how each team member brought something different to the design and build of their Martian rover. She was one of two team members that worked on programming the rover. Together, Chistyakova's team created the best design at the workshop.

NCAS introduced Chistyakova to different possibilities for her Electrical Engineering degree, taught her she needs to continue pushing herself in classes, and encouraged her to meet challenges head-on.

When asked what she would say to students unsure about applying to NCAS, Chistyakova said: "Go. Don’t be unsure. Do it. Apply."

"[Take] the opportunity that you have," Christina said. "Never be afraid of challenges."

To learn more about and apply for NCAS, visit: