By Shannon Johnson
On December 15th a Baker High School graduate, Dakotah Rusley, graduated from the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, SD with a degree in Computer Engineering and a job at NASA already lined up.
Rusley has dreamed of working at NASA for most of his life and despite many people discouraging his dreams he humbly admitted that his stubbornness helped him achieve his dreams. “There were a lot of people that didn’t think I was capable, which is probably true, but I did it anyway,” he said. “I have a letter I wrote to myself as an eight-year-old. I knew that I wanted to do engineering.”
Rusley grew up on a ranch 35 miles south of Baker. In his high school career, he participated in BPA and FFA. He graduated high school in 2013 and began his college career in South Dakota. In 2015, in the middle of his college career, Rusley traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to intern with Rockwell Collins, an aerospace engineering company. “It took me five and a half years to get a four-year degree,” he said.
NASA allows applicants for ten days two times a year, once in spring and once in fall. In those ten days they receive approximately 150,000 applicants and only choose around 30. Rusley had been applying each time since his freshman year of college. “There’s a chance that they were just like ‘I’m sick and tired of seeing this name. Fine’ and gave me the stamp of approval,” he joked. “That is what it feels like sometimes though.”
Rusley was accepted over Thanksgiving of 2016 and he started his internship in 2017. “I was part of the pathways program,” he explained. “Any federal agency has a pathways program that is basically the pipeline for fresh grads.”
Rusley will be heading to Maryland in the first week of January to begin his dream job and use his knowledge to better the world. “My biggest thing that I want to do with my degree is to do something that makes humanity better,” he smiled. “I hope I can inspire somebody else to go off and follow their dreams. If I can make one person live the life that I’ve lived so far, it’s worth it.”
Dakotah is the son of Phillip and Lori Rusley of Baker.