By Shira J.
|Meredith Norton '92
hopes to make a giant leap - into outerspace.
COURTESY OF MEREDITH NORTON
College students fretting over their choice of a major may be
inspired by the story of Meredith Norton '92, who, after nearly a
decade out of school, has decided to pursue her childhood dream of
becoming an astronaut.
a long and improbable path. "A lot of people apply and like nobody
gets in," Norton says of the training program. "But for me, it's
career as a teacher and entrepreneur already has been an unlikely
process. After working in documentary filmmaking in New York
following graduation, Norton moved to Oakland, Calif., and started
teaching history in a public junior high school. At the same time,
she and a friend began making high-end silk pillows and blankets
for themselves and as gifts. "Everyone wanted them; stores wanted
them!" Norton says. "So we got a pattern-maker, a warehouse base
and started going to trade shows." Teaching school the whole time,
Norton ran the silk bedding company with her friend for three
years. With four other employees, they sold more than 100 products
wholesale to catalogues and to 250 stores nationwide.
the pillow company about "building a better mousetrap," as the
saying goes? Actually, yes. "We had a mouse problem," Norton
admits. It started with glimpses of gray fur darting by. Then they
noticed holes chewed through entire bolts of silk
was two months of fighting mice. When it first started, we were
screaming and jumping up on the pattern table. By the end, we'd
just put on our rubber gloves and go after them. We didn't want to
kill them, so we tried to catch them and drive them out to the
country," she says, for which Norton devised her own mousetrap
involving a bucket, bait and towel. ("I should patent that," she
says.) They realized what wide-ranging appeal their products had
when they discovered a mouse nest adorned with silk scraps in
rainbow colors, sequins, and dried rose petals harvested from a
bouquet on Norton's desk.
and her pillow company partner, Rebecca Whittaker, with some of
PHOTO: COURTESY OF
Eventually, "the usual partnership problems started," Norton
says, and they put the pillows aside. Shortly afterward, Norton was
leading her eighth grade class through a goal-setting exercise.
"The kids had these goals like 'I want to be a secretary,' so I was
helping them map out higher goals," she says. But when the kids
asked Norton what she wanted to be and she said an astronaut, they
asked, 'Then why aren't you an astronaut?'
didn't have a good reason. There was no reason I hadn't tried to do
it," she says.
her students inspired her to go back to school and try for
astronauthood. Norton is now halfway through a post-bac program
that will prepare her for a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering or
robotics and control systems. With that, she says, she will apply
to the astronaut training program. The program receives several
thousand applications for just 23 spots every two years, so Norton
has a back-up plan: to return to teaching, this time as a high
school science teacher. Even though she would be qualified to teach
on the college level, Norton says, "I think you have a much greater
impact on high school kids."