COLUMBIA, S.C. — In observance of Black History Month, the Deputy Director of NASA's Johnson Space Center paid a visit to Allen University on Monday. 

The event organized by The Renaissance Foundation attracted dozens of students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) around the Midlands 

Vanessa Wyche is the first African-American to hold the position with tasks that include leading NASA's astronauts, Mission Control and development of plans for human missions to the Moon and Mars. 

Vanessa Wyche
Vanessa Wyche shows photos during presentation at Allen University.
Kayland Hagwood

She's a South Carolina native with bio-engineering degree from Clemson University.

Her message to students on Monday was take risks, have courage and strive to be the best.

"Don't be afraid to try. You're not going to always do well at everything that you do," Wyche said, "but you have to have courage, you've got to try it and then pick yourself 'cause we learn from all of our mistakes and then keep going forward."

Dranicia Grey
Dranicia Grey
Kayland Hagwood

Dranicia Grey, a student from Morris College in Sumter, has dreams of being a doctor and called the experience "life changing."

"It means a lot to me because as a black woman a lot of people don't look at us for certain things and they don't expect a lot from black women," Grey said. "So, to see the first black woman, second in command at NASA, it was life changing to me and I'm very inspired."

To learn more about NASA and the programs they offer to students visit here.