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Two St. Paul students win $7,500 grand prize in Unsung Heroes contest

September 20, 2018

Jerrie Cobb was a pilot thwarted in her effort to become one of the first female astronauts, but nearly 50 years later, her story resonated with St. Paul students Aiko Mattie and Emma McCarthy.

Sexism was one of the forces at play, and Cobbs subsequent fight against discrimination at NASA would pave the way for others, inspiring Mattie and McCarthy tenth-graders at Open World Learning Community on the citys West Side to create a website, Jerrie Cobb: The Fight to Send Women to Space.

On Thursday morning, the students were honored in surprise fashion with the $7,500 grand prize in the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes 2018 Discovery Award competition.

Aiko and Emma told Jerrie Cobbs story with great detail and nuance, using sophisticated research skills and multimedia resources, said Norm Conard, the centers executive director, who presented the students with the prize in an auditorium assembly attended by about 70 classmates.

According to the center, the competition gives U.S. and international students in grades 4-12 the opportunity to use their creative talents to develop projects that feature unsung heroes from history who demonstrate one persons power to make positive change in the world.

This year, six prizes were awarded to middle school and high school students in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to Cobb, the other heroes whose stories were told by students via websites and documentaries included those of a civil rights advocate, scientists and war heroes. The awards now are in their 11th year.

The website created by Mattie and McCarthy includes newspaper clips and an interview by the students with Gene Nora Jessen, who trained with Cobb and also was denied the chance to be an astronaut. To see it, go to www.LowellMilkenCenter.org.

Anthony Lonetree 612-673-4109

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