On 7 October 2021, Beauchamp City Sixth Form welcomed Michael Foale, Britain’s first ever astronaut to undertake a space walk, to officially open the sixth form campus in Leicester city centre.
The campus has been open for over 12 months now but the formal opening ceremony had been delayed due to pandemic restrictions. However, with the sixth form’s drive to include future pathways for STEM subjects, former NASA employee Michael Foale, who is also a Cambridge University Physics Graduate, was the ideal figure to provide the students with a source of inspiration.
Prior to the opening ceremony, Michael gave a talk to the students about his own experiences and in his own words, also made a concerted effort to talk about the disappointments he’d faced in his career. Explaining why this was important to include, he says: “I wanted to tell them about my failures or the difficulties I had. I wanted them to hear the story of how, yes it upset me, yes it set me back but I, through maybe good fortune, found a way around those and found my way forward to achieve my goals”.
Although Michael has had an exciting career which includes flying into space six times, for him, working with young adults offers a different type of reward. “When I talk to young people and I mean kids and schools, I get their energy and it really enlightens me,” he explains.
Following his talk, Michael also told us why he was happy to be a part of the sixth form’s opening: “I am really thrilled to be here in Leicester. It’s great to be at this school that is tailored to helping the students that are interested in science, technology, engineering and math to realise those a-levels that are required to take those steps.”
For Michael, the visit to Beauchamp City Sixth Form is a continuation of the work he’s been doing with the International Space Schools Education Trust (ISSET). Talking about the exciting projects they organise for young people, primarily through a programme called Mission Discovery, he explains : “They bring in A-Level students for a week from often disadvantaged schools to invent a space experiment that will then go to the international space station”.
Michael, who also lived in Russia for some time during his career, also leans on a memory from his time in the country when explaining what he hopes to impart on Beauchamp students: “One of the things I remember from Star City in Moscow is written on the high school: “Uchit’sya, uchit’sya, uchit’sya.” And that means “Study, study, study.” That repetition is the mother of all learning.”
By Gita Sarasia