West Valley College Student Awarded Patti Grace Smith Fellowship

Elizabeth Antoine-Hands

West Valley College student Elizabeth Antoine-Hands has been named one of only two community college students in the country to be awarded a Patti Grace Smith Fellowship, following a rigorous four-round selection process. This year, the fellowship was awarded to thirty-nine exceptional Black students seeking experience in the aerospace industry. The fellowship consists of a summer internship, a scholarship, and a pair of personalized mentors to guide fellows in their career aspirations.  

“It’s an exciting opportunity to form professional connections, build new skills, and a good introduction to the aerospace industry,” says Antoine-Hands. “I wanted to approach aerospace from the space side of things since I have historically focused on aviation.”  

The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship was created to combat the under-representation of Black employees in the aerospace industry in the United States. While Black students make up 15% of undergraduate and graduate students in the United States, they only make up 6% of workers and 3% of aerospace executives.  

At West Valley College Antoine-Hands is studying engineering and, is currently a Project Manager for San Carlos’ Experimental Aviation Association Young Aviators RV-12 Build Project, which consists of high school and college students who are building a two-seater light sport aircraft. It was through this experience that she learned about the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship and was motivated to apply. As part of the fellowship, she will be working for Relativity Space to design and build 3D printed reusable rockets to launch into space.  

Antoine-Hands has recently become a certified airframe and powerplant mechanic—giving her the qualifications to work on airplane engines and external parts. After completing her studies at West Valley, she plans to earn her bachelor’s and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering so that she can design air and space vehicles with a greater focus on operator experience and maintainability.  

Last Updated 2/28/22