India Jackson was thrilled when she was accepted to a prestigious summer internship at NASA’s field center in Houston. But there was one big problem: the single mother and Georgia State University student had to pay for her own travel, housing and other living expenses.
Jackson, studying for a doctorate in physics, said she wasn’t sure how she could afford the internship. “I have to pay for rent in two places now, I have to rent a car, I have food, I have my child. What am I going to do?” she recalled thinking.
Her cousin Dasha Fuller came up with the idea to try raising money for her on a GoFundMe page May 7, with a goal of about $8,000. Within one day, strangers crowdfunded $8,510 for Jackson’s internship.
“It really caught me off guard. It was amazing and it was overwhelming, and I was just blown away,” she said, noting that her program at GSU generally does not fund internships, and NASA’s stipend wouldn’t be enough to support her and her daughter.
Jackson, 32, was able to fly to Houston with her 12-year-old daughter Jewel to work for NASA analyzing high-intensity radiation events and predicting solar flares.
Jackson, a DeKalb County native, is a mathematician who got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math from GSU. She has taught math at some colleges around metro Atlanta, but decided to pursue her true passion, physics and astronomy, for a doctorate.
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“Something that I absolutely wanted to do was work for NASA,” she said.
Being a single mother while doing research and taking classes has been tough, but Jackson said her ambition and family support system helped her through.
“When things have to get done, they have to get done,” she said. “I’m just blessed enough to be living in a time where everything is technology-driven, and this GoFundMe account was able to reach people around the world in order to help my cause.”
Once she gets her doctoral degree, Jackson’s ultimate goal involves space travel.
“I want to go to the International Space Station” and study using the solar telescope there, she said. “People think that I'm crazy. ... They think that it's impossible, but people also thought that it was impossible to do the things that I’ve done thus far.”
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