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BHS graduate Jenna Foertsch on her path from robotics to NASA

Lisa Lake

Jenna Foertsch, a 2015 Burnsville High School graduate and University of Minnesota - Twin Cities alumna, is blazing her own trail as she begins working at NASA. 

Foertsch landed her dream job at NASA in the Planning, Integration, and Environmental Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. She completed five internships there prior to being offered full-time employment, involved in things like data analysis and visualization, social media management and public affairs, and NASA technology transfer.

Foertsch, who also attended Vista View Elementary and Nicollet Junior High, did not initially set out to pursue a degree in STEM, despite her love of and passion for science.

“Try that club that you wouldn't normally try. Take that class that seems interesting but also maybe a little intimidating. Ask a lot of ‘why’ questions."

- Jenna Foertsch

During her years at Burnsville High School, she connected with teachers who sparked her interest in STEM, including science teachers William Aamodt and Jon Huber, and math teachers Kim Harrod and Jen Fettig VanOekel (former BHS teacher).

“The cool thing about teachers is that they want to see you become successful,” said Foertsch. “Some of the greatest lessons I've learned were not from lessons during class but from the chats I've had with teachers after class while asking for advice.” 

“Parents and friends can give advice but finding that teacher or mentor in a topic you are interested in can provide you with perspective and guidance.”

Foertsch also participated in sports most of her youth, until she discovered robotics in high school.

“It was definitely not something I thought I would have any interest in but joining robotics changed the trajectory of both my career and frankly my life,” said Foertsch. “The high school robotics team was a perfect blend of STEM, business, communications, outreach and education — where my sweet spot lies. Through robotics, I discovered a network and community that led to my love for both space and NASA.” 

“Uncertainty is part of life, and the more comfortable you are with the discomfort of it all, the happier you will be and the more adventures you will have!”

- Jenna Foertsch

Quite often, Foertsch is asked to provide advice to kids. And, although she acknowledges that she is supposed to say something along the lines of, "take STEM courses and study really hard," which is great advice, Foertsch believes it takes a lot more than that.

“I was not in all AP classes as a kid, and I didn't have one subject that I particularly excelled in. I know the pressure to have to stack your resume and get into the best college. I want to emphasize that at the end of the day, the thing that matters most is that you put your mental health first and you are passionate, curious, and try things outside of your comfort zone.”

“Try that club that you wouldn't normally try," she added. "Take that class that seems interesting but also maybe a little intimidating. Ask a lot of ‘why’ questions. I got into NASA not because I was a ‘genius’ or a ‘rocket scientist,’ but because I am chronically curious and like to solve problems. When I was in high school I remember being jealous of the kids who knew exactly what they wanted to be. I didn't discover my love for NASA until my junior year of college.” 

“Uncertainty is part of life, and the more comfortable you are with the discomfort of it all, the happier you will be and the more adventures you will have!”

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