One small step from a community of strangers just translated to a giant leap for Georgia State University Ph.D. student India Jackson. The single mom earned a highly competitive summer internship at NASA’s field center in Houston but was daunted by the fact that she’d have to fund her own travel, housing and living expenses during the 10-week program, which pays a stipend after arrival, but not enough to support the 32-year-old and her 12-year-old daughter. Neither was assistance available from GSU, where she also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math. So, despite the tremendous opportunity open to her at NASA, the challenge was seemingly insurmountable, given Jackson’s current obligations.
“I have to pay for rent in two places now, I have to rent a car, I have food, I have my child. What am I going to do?” she thought, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Thanks to the ingenuity of her cousin, Dasha Fuller, Jackson no longer has to worry. After launching a GoFundMe page last week, with a goal to raise $8,000, over 260 people—predominantly strangers—exceeded Jackson’s fundraising goal by over $500 within one day.
“It really caught me off guard. It was amazing and it was overwhelming, and I was just blown away,” she said.
Jackson has already purchased plane tickets and arranged lodging for herself and her daughter in Houston, thanks to the kindness of strangers. At NASA, she’ll be analyzing high-intensity radiation events, which help predict events that may endanger astronauts in space.
“Something that I absolutely wanted to do was work for NASA,” she told the Journal-Constitution. “I’m just blessed enough to be living in a time where everything is technology-driven, and this GoFundMe account was able to reach people around the world in order to help my cause,” she added.
If the incredible outpouring of support she received via crowdfunding is any evidence, much more will likely be possible for Jackson, who disclosed that one of her ultimate goals is to travel to space herself.
“I want to go to the International Space Station [and study using the solar telescope there],” she said. “People think that I’m crazy. ... They think that it’s impossible, but people also thought that it was impossible to do the things that I’ve done thus far.”