The lucky students who get to speak to an International Space Station astronaut as part of the ARISS program at Allen Park Elementary School can start practicing what they’ll say. 16 have been selected for the unique opportunity when the Space Station flies over Southwest Florida in the fall. Five alternates were also selected from applications across Lee County Schools to include as many students as possible.

“It was incredibly difficult to narrow down our applicants to the 16 students who will be speaking to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station via ham radio,” says 5th grade math and science Teacher Courtney Black. “Those ultimately selected really stood out due to their interest and enthusiasm about STEM careers and space exploration.”

The students selected come from nine schools and all three grade levels.

  • Maite Araiza - Cape Coral High School
  • Avery Black - Allen Park Elementary
  • Quinlinn Conroy - Allen Park Elementary
  • Elliot DeCosta - The Sanibel School
  • Catherine DiPlacido - Allen Park Elementary
  • Harry Doucette - Tanglewood Elementary
  • Nishini Fernando - Allen Park Elementary
  • Emily Gunger South - Fort Myers High School
  • Christopher Howard - Fort Myers High School
  • Rowan Martin - Allen Park Elementary
  • Peyton McCarthy - Gulf Middle School
  • Karl Schott - Gulf Middle School
  • Zoe Stamatopoulos - Allen Park Elementary
  • Addison Stokes - Heights Elementary
  • Marcel Suarez - Gulf Middle School
  • Joshua Yue - Allen Park Elementary


  • Bennett Black - Allen Park Elementary
  • Zahkai Fulcher - Gulf Elementary
  • Emma Giordano - Allen Park Elementary
  • Oren Philpott - Allen Park Elementary
  • Brandon Sareh - Allen Park Elementary

Black is the driving force behind the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) for Allen Park. Since her application was accepted she has instituted a “Year in Space” learning program for her students. They have planted tomatoes from seeds that flew in space, they are tracking their steps until they reach the 478 million it would take to walk to the moon and they are studying rocketry, robotics and computer coding. The program culminates with a conversation with a Space Station astronaut.

Recently, Black took the STEM Club to the Kennedy Space Center. They witnessed a Falcon 9 Rocket launch, got to meet astronaut Dr. Tom Jones, and learned Allen Park will be receiving a Giant Mars Map from Buzz Aldrin’s Share Space Foundation. Black says the trip was an “epic” experience for her and her students.

The ARISS fly by and conversation with an astronaut is expected in either September, October or November. The exact date and time is still to be determined and won’t be finalized until the week before.

CenturyLink will provide the ham radio connection needed for the students to communicate with the ISS crew as they pass overhead. FGCU is providing STEM educational support and a telescope to view the Space Station while the students ask their questions.