HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WGNO)— The John Stennis Space Center is celebrating HBCU Week, honoring historically Black colleges and universities.

Working for the agency that tests rockets to send people into space may have been something that Gentilly native Travis Martin wanted to do, but he was also an inquisitive child.

“I guess I always had an engineering mind even back then,” Martin said. “I used to take stuff apart around the house and put it back together to see how they worked, and it started then.”

Martin went on to attend Alabama A&M University on a football and academic scholarship and says that experience helped prepare him to work at NASA.

“It was an eye-opening experience to see people that look like me and act like me but were already accomplished in their careers and specialized careers.”

Also taking the HBCU track to NASA is Southern University alum, Katina Emery. Emery is the manager of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity. She says different cultures make the agency stronger.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion really power everything we do. It has to be woven into the nature of our work,” said Emery.