Kiera Wilmot is going to space camp.
In late April, the 16-year-old central Florida honor student was accused of igniting a chemical explosion on school grounds, leading to her arrest and suspension from school, but authorities dropped criminal charges last week.
The nightmarish ordeal was shocking for her single mother, Marie Wilmot, who always encouraged Kiera and her twin sister, Kayla, to follow their passions.
“The initial phone call was terrifying,” Marie told ABC News. “Time will help I hope, it was devastating for me as a mother.”
While school officials debate whether Kiera will return to Bartow High School, the Wilmot family received an unexpected surprise.
The explosion struck a chord with 18-year NASA veteran Homer Hickam, a former lead astronaut training manager for Spacelab, and later for the International Space Station.
In the late 1950s, Hickam had a brush with law enforcement for allegedly starting a forest fire. State police came to his high school and led him and his friends away in handcuffs, but his high school physics professor and school principal came to the rescue, clearing him of wrongdoing.
Back then, schools did not have zero tolerance rules. Kids could make their mistakes without the threat of a criminal record, or serving time in jail.
“I couldn’t let this go without doing something,” Hickam said. “I’m not a lawyer, but I could give her something that would encourage her. I’ve worked closely with the U.S. Space Academy, and so I purchased a scholarship for her.”
Learning of her twin sister, Hickam raised enough money so Kiera and Kayla could attend space camp together. Hickam runs several scholarships for kids with potential, and hopes to create an ongoing Space Academy scholarship. The twins will attend in July.