Sabrina Montoya, who recently graduated from Rio Rancho High School, was named Outstanding Young Researcher during a local science competition for her team’s project modeling optimal travel methods to Mars.

Montoya was one of three students from New Mexico who were awarded The Aerospace Corporation’s Future STEM Leaders Scholarship. This scholarship provides opportunities to incoming first-generation college students. They are matched with a mentor and receive a one-time $5,000 scholarship toward their four-year college or university.

“It is amazing to be awarded the STEM scholarship,” Montoya said. “Scholarships in general are kind of like throwing applications out, seeing what sticks, so when you get one it feels like all of that effort has finally paid off. The Future STEM Leaders Scholarship from The Aerospace Corporation was especially exciting because it allows me the opportunity to connect with a company that specializes, among many other things, in the STEM field I am interested in going into. I am also still incredibly grateful that I was awarded this scholarship because it will help ease the burden of paying for college and allow me to get my education without worrying so much about finances.”

Lorena Madrid Larranaga, a senior at Albuquerque High Schoolb and Sofia Gonzalez, a senior at Explore Academy, also were awarded the scholarship. Recipients are selected based on active participation in their communities, demonstration of leadership initiative, and commitment to pursue an undergraduate degree in physical sciences, computer sciences, engineering or mathematics.

Montoya will be attending New Mexico State University in the fall to study aerospace engineering.

“My love for STEM and aerospace engineering actually came from two places: my father, who first introduced me to STEM fields, and a class I took my freshman year of high school,” Montoya said. “I took an aerospace engineering with Ms. Abbey at Rio Rancho High School course my freshman year of high school and researched a military cargo plane with many recorded crashes; I felt that they should not have happened, so I decided I wanted to be an aerospace engineer to design planes that were safer for those who used them.”

That love has led to a $5,000 scholarship for Montoya, who hopes to use the money and her time at NMSU to fuel a career in the aerospace engineering field after college.

“I am hoping to work for a defense and space company because I would absolutely love to be able to work on military planes,” Montoya said. “I have a fascination with military planes in particular and want to enhance the equipment that protects our servicemen and women. Aerospace engineering is something that I’m extremely passionate about so I am extremely grateful for the opportunities, resources and people who are allowing me to make it my career.”