|Billy and Julie Hudson founded the Aspirnaut Initiative.
From a young age, the boy was very motivated to change his circumstances. He excelled in school and read a lot. In high school, he taught himself the curricula of a number of Advanced Placement courses and sat for the exams. He passed 11 AP courses eligible for college credit with flying colors. He applied to the Aspirnaut summer intern program between his junior and senior years of high school and had “an outstanding summer of research,” says Hudson. He maintained ties with Aspirnaut during his senior year of high school by helping with the bus and videoconference programs in his community. “He served as a junior mentor to the students,” she says. “He’s now a sophomore at Vanderbilt and has an excellent academic record. He’s going to apply for early decision to medical school” and is hoping to earn an M.D./Ph.D.
Students like this young man are the ones Billy Hudson always looks out for to introduce to the Aspirnaut Initiative, mindful that he broke out of the circle of poverty and abuse at the age of 16. “We show them education is a way of breaking free of difficult situations,” he states. “That’s the path I know out of poverty and out of abuse. It’s what education can do, but it can’t happen unless an opportunity passes your way.”
See past coverage of this topic in ASBMB Today.
Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay (email@example.com) is the senior science writer for ASBMB Today and technical editor for JBC.
I have been with the Aspirnaut Program since June 2009. At that time, I was at a point of intermission. I had been admitted to Vanderbilt University as a doctoral student and was in almost in my third year of study. There were many factors occurring that were making me think about stepping away, including the fact that I was a mother of four. During this time, a good friend of mine introduced me to Billy and mentioned that he too was interested in my passion of making science learning more accessible. I met with Billy and Julie and fell in love with the program. I became involved with the program. That was one of the best decisions of my life and I have been involved ever since with assisting with the summer science program, skyping lessons to Arkansas, and serving as a mentor to Aspirnaut students within the school year. While in this program, I spoke with Billy on many occasions and realized the importance of sticking to my goal of attaining my PhD at Vanderbilt. He mentored me and gave me an opportunity to step back into benchwork with invaluable mentorship. It would make a difference in so many lives, including my own. I would be able to mentor more students that are under-represented in science and use my story as an inspiration of continuing your goal in the face of adversity. Billy and Julie’s passion of science exposure to the underserved runs very deep and their love, inspiration, and resources for these students runs deeper. I am proud to call myself an Aspirnaut because the program has been there in so many ways for me, giving me an opportunity to build my skills and resume, and allowing me to play many roles within the program that showcase me and my love for equitable, legitimate exposure of minorities to the world of science. I am an African American mother of four who recently graduated from Vanderbilt with an Interdisciplinary Degree in Biomedical Sciences and Science Education and am ready to create ways to make scientific concepts and the thought of it equally enticing to students of all backgrounds!!
—Isi Ero-Tolliver, Ph.D.