Return to Headlines

Oxford Middle School Hosts Inspiring Watch Party with Astronaut, Dr. Jeanette Epps

photo of students at watch party
photo of Dr. Epps
Astronaut Jeanette Epps on the International Space Station

Oxford, Mississippi (May 23, 2024) — Oxford Middle School (OMS) buzzed with excitement on Tuesday as students gathered for a special watch party featuring astronaut Jeanette Epps. The event, attended by several students from the school, connected Epps, with 20 students from across the country, offering a rare and thrilling opportunity to learn directly from a pioneering figure in space exploration.

In coordination with OMS Assistant Principal Yolanda Logan, and sponsored by The Links, Incorporated’s “LINKS-STEMREADY Signature Program,” this In-Flight Education Downlink from NASA was an outstanding opportunity to expose students to STEM/WildSTEM in conjunction with space exploration. The event was a testament to the power of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

In-Flight Education Downlinks are opportunities for students/educators to interact with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through a Q&A session. Among the highlights of the day was Lark Smith, an eighth-grade student at Oxford Middle School, who had the distinct honor of asking a pre-recorded video question that was answered by Dr. Epps live from the ISS. This moment was met with great pride from the school community, underscoring the significance of student engagement in such enriching educational experiences.

The event provided an intimate glimpse into the life and career of an astronaut. Students listened intently as Dr. Epps shared the challenges on her journey to becoming an astronaut and the profound wonders of space travel. Her stories captivated the audience, inspiring many young minds to consider futures in STEM fields.

Following the watch party, students and teachers participated in a hands-on team challenge: to represent our solar system’s constellations by building 3-D models. This activity not only added an Art element, converting STEM to a STEAM project and reinforcing the day’s lessons, but also fostered a deeper understanding of astronomical concepts.

Dr. Darlene Washington, a former Oxford School District speech pathologist, and member of the Mississippi Roses Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, was also present to provide insight into the organization. She highlighted the group's mission, “Friends transforming communities through service.” An international, not-for-profit corporation established in 1946, it is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations. The Links members contribute more than 1 million documented hours of community service annually. The Mississippi Roses Chapter has been serving not only Lafayette County but the counties of Benton, DeSoto, Marshall and Union since its chartering in October 2015. The Mississippi Roses sponsor two chapters of National Society of Black Engineers, Jr. (NSBE Jr) in Oxford and DeSoto County. Ms. Marilyn Barnes, Director of Student Development, was instrumental in recruiting the charter members of the Oxford NSBE Jr. Chapter. Lark Smith serves as its President.

The NASA Expedition 71 Education Downlink event was more than just an educational experience; it was a celebration of curiosity, learning, and the endless possibilities that STEM careers can offer. For the students of Oxford Middle School, it was a day of inspiration and discovery, one that will surely leave a lasting impact on their academic and personal growth.

The Oxford NSBE Jr. Chapter meets monthly. Students interested in joining may contact Mrs. Yolanda Logan ( or Ms. Marilyn Barnes (

photo of male student completing worksheet and crafts about constellations
photo of female student completing worksheet and crafts about constellations
photo of another female student completing worksheet and crafts about constellations
Yolanda Logan