By Suzanne Schmidt
Ever since she was a little girl, Kristin Stillwell knew what she wanted to do with her life.
At first it was a weather girl, then a few years later an astronaut. Then she decided she would rather be on the ground giving support to the astronauts as an astrophysicist.
“When I was younger I used to watch the weather with my mom and I would pretend to be a weather person,” Stillwell said. “Once I got into the higher level classes I learned I like space. I decided I wanted to be an astronaut but then I decided it was too dangerous. Once I took physics, I found that I loved it and it came naturally to me. I found an actual degree where I can combine my love of physics with my love of space.”
The Land O’ Lakes resident, who graduated recently from Sunlake cum laude, will be going to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. She plans to major in astrophysics and minor in astronomy and math. She said she plans to continue in college until she has a Ph. D. in astrophysics and astronomy.
“On Christmas eve I opened my acceptance letter,” Stillwell said. “My mom kept it from me until then. It was propped up under the tree. I open it and I started crying. That was the school I wanted to go to. It is the school of my dreams.”
She hopes to one day further advance the space program by being a researcher for NASA. She said she loves space and she can remember the first things she learned about space when she was in the sixth-grade.
“There is so much we don’t know about it,” Stillwell said. “I remember the first thing I learned about space was the phases of the moon and the solar and lunar eclipses. I couldn’t wait to learn about the inner planets. I remember being really excited about learning about Mars.”
Through her years at Sunlake High School, Stillwell has been preparing for her future by taking honors and advanced placement classes. During her junior and senior year she has been in dual enrollment with Pasco-Hernando Community College. She will be starting her freshman year with 18 college credits already finished.
“I have known I wanted to do this since I was a little girl,” Stillwell said. “I knew that I couldn’t be that person if I didn’t work hard.”
Cathy Stillwell said her daughter has always stayed focused on her goals.
“I am very excited about the road ahead of her,” Cathy Stillwell said. “We didn’t push her. She has always been driven, ever since she was a kid.”
The tuition at Embry-Riddle is $40,000 a year. She has earned scholarships, but she still needs $15,000 for her first year.
“We are open for any help we can get,” Cathy Stillwell said. “We are still working on trying to get more money but whatever we don’t come up with she will have to get student loans to cover.”
For more information, e-mail Cathy Stillwell at .