Tara Sweeney selected to lead the Higher Orbits Diversity and Inclusion Coalition

June 30, 2021



Tara Sweeney selected to lead the Higher Orbits Diversity and Inclusion Coalition, creating opportunities for underserved and underrepresented youth


Geoscientist, mentor, former parabolic flight crewmember, and retired United States Air Force Special Operations Command officer Tara Sweeney has been appointed to steer the Diversity and Inclusion Coalition at Higher Orbits

“While inspiring kids to know their own greatness and dream out loud, I want to help corporations know their integral role in that formative process,” Sweeney said.

With the help of others, Sweeney has achieved lofty goals in her career, which consistently includes investing in aspiring youth. Now she’s recruiting support from industry leaders committed to helping all teens achieve opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career development and research at Higher Orbits

“No matter who it is they want to be and what it is they want to do, young people should always be encouraged to invite others into their orbits who will help them explore opportunities, build confidence and skills, and ultimately assist them in achieving the goals and dreams they have set for themselves,” said Sweeney. 

Sweeney seeks corporate partners to fully fund the Diversity and Inclusion Coalition which expects to offer more than 100 Go For Launch! scholarships for historically underserved and underrepresented youth, enabling them to participate in the life-changing hands-on experiences through Higher Orbits. AIAA, BRPH, Iridium, and Kratos have made founding contributions to support the Coalition.

As the flagship, hands-on educational experience at Higher Orbits, Go For Launch! delivers a multi-day, in-person, truly out-of-this-world experience to 8th to 12th grade students. Go For Launch! leverages spaceflight and space exploration as the launchpad for students to develop and strengthen their skills in STEM, teamwork, communication, research design, and leadership while working side-by-side with an astronaut for the entire event. Through its partners and supporters, Higher Orbits secures opportunities for selected Go For Launch! student-led research to fly to space for study. Higher Orbits also identifies paths for student researchers to present their findings at conferences like the International Astronautical Congress or experiences such as the International Science School at the University of Sydney in Australia. 

As a woman who has charted an inspiring career as a United States Air Force Academy graduate, a scientist, a private pilot, with a disability, and being gay, Sweeney knows how powerful it is to have a seat at the table of life’s opportunities. “Representation matters and can serve as a powerful, motivating force for young people,” said Sweeney. 

Sweeney has led multiple national defense, homeland security, intelligence community, and space research projects. Even at age 48, “I am still an aspiring space explorer. I have had the wicked awesome opportunity to share excitement about the future of human space flight with children and adults from all over the world. And I have seen, first-hand, how important and motivating the Higher Orbits’ inspirational programs are in the lives of young people,” she said. Sweeney lives in El Paso, Texas, with her wife, Dr. Jennifer Bishop, and their dogs, Sylvia and Molly. She is pursuing her doctorate degree in geological sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso. 

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About Higher Orbits

Founded in 2015, Higher Orbits is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization creating an experiential learning lab for secondary school students across the United States, focused on the multi-faceted worlds of space exploration, research, and spaceflight in order to launch the next generation workforce our world desires. 

From novice to advanced level activities drawing from the Science Futures by Design curriculum at Higher Orbits, students from all STEM backgrounds will find the GFL! experience a user-friendly environment to learn, explore, and inspire others.

To join the Diversity and Inclusion Coalition, please contact Tara Sweeney, sponsors@higherorbits.org.

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