By Samantha Wohlfeil
The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Matilda Brooks was recently picked as one of 50 semifinalists out of more than 7,300 future female leaders who entered “The Search for Hidden Figures” contest. The contest was inspired by the movie “Hidden Figures,” which features the story of three African American women who worked with NASA as mathematicians during the 1960s to help get John Glenn into orbit.
For a while, Matilda Brooks wasn’t sure how to tell people what she wanted to do after college, because the job she wants doesn’t exist yet.
“I basically want to fly rich people to space,” Brooks said with a laugh.
Brooks, a 28-year-old member of the Yurok Tribe of California and a senior at Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation, says going into commercial space flight is only one of her ambitions.
“If I go, I’d be the first federally recognized, registered Native American female to go to space — for me that would mean a lot,” Brooks says.
“For me it’s more of a statement to our people than it is my career. It would mean a lot to a lot of foster kids and a lot of Native Americans. To say, ‘Yeah, there is no limit to what you can do.’ ”
Brooks grew up in foster care and advocates for foster children and better education in Native American communities.
In 2015 she interned with NASA, and for two years she has been a member of NWIC’s rocket club, which got a rocket to break the sound barrier, and has shown up competitors by using simple materials, such as the top of a plastic soda bottle, to perform the same function as another team’s laser.
Most recently, she was picked as one of 50 semifinalists (one of 25 in her age group) out of more than 7,300 future female leaders who entered “The Search for Hidden Figures” contest, put on by PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox.