CTeen in Outer Space

4 months ago Leighest 0

Hey y’all! My name is Nina Pfrenger and if you didn’t already guess from the “y’all” I live in Houston, Texas and am currently a senior at a public high school. About a year and a half ago, at the 2017 Cteen Shabbaton, my journey to become more observant started. After the Shabbaton I took on dressing tznius, modestly, and Passover that same year I started keeping Shabbos. (Thanks to the amazing Lazaroff family for hosting me every week!) It wasn’t long before I was keeping more and more mitzvot.


Throughout my junior year, I participated in an online course called NASA High School Aerospace Scholars (or HAS for short). It was through this program that during the summer I had an amazing opportunity to attend a week long onsite program at none other than “Houston, we have a problem’s” NASA.

I heard about this program from a girl at my Chabad House who participated the year prior to me. She told me that they were extremely accommodating to letting her wear skirts, keep kosher, and keep Shabbos. As someone who wants to go into mechanical engineering this sounded like the best thing ever!


So, as a typical teenage procrastinator, I did not look into the HAS program until a friend in my school was working on the application in class. I asked him “oh hey, when is that due?” Turns out it was due 3 pm that day, and it was already 8am. Very quickly I got a recommendation letter from a teacher, wrote two short essays about why I should be in the program, and filled out the rest of the information. Apparently I was meant to be in the program because I was accepted the following week.


The HAS program has high school Texas juniors plan a mission to Mars during a four month online course. After the course ends, a select few get chosen to go to the Johnson Space Center for a week long program, competing against other teams on a Mission to Mars.

A couple weeks after the online portion closed, I received my acceptance email to attend the onsite program! I was excited, but also a bit nervous. I knew they were accommodating in previous years, but I was still worried that I would have issues rise up when asking for exceptions. Turns out while filling out the application for the onsite program, they had a drop down bar where I was able to select a Kosher meal plan! Then when I saw the dates I found out it started Sunday and when until noon on Friday! I was extremely happy that I was accepted, but even more that I was able to attend without missing days or stressing about food. The only thing I had to do was email them about wearing skirts, which was not an issue at all! I was extremely grateful for the accommodations I received.


When the program officially began, I had the best time ever! We constructed and launched our own rockets,got to go to mission control where we saw astronauts on the International Space Station,and even got to hear from really interesting speakers who worked on projects at NASA.

At the closing ceremony I even won the Ambassador Award (promoting the HAS program through social media the most).

Becoming more observant has changed my life (for the better of course), but it doesn’t hinder what I am able to do. I still have opportunities to experience amazing programs that any other person could attend, while still keeping all the mitzvot. Seeing how accommodating this program was has shown me that I can be an observant Jew and still do what I love in my life, and so can you!