“Anything is possible if you work hard and do well in school,” was the primary message from retired NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, who recently addressed students at San Gabriel Mission Elementary and High Schools.
The high school auditorium was packed with students, teachers, staff and parents who heard Hernandez’s personal story that began in the sugar beet fields near Stockton and continued to his recent trip into outer space in 2009.
As the son of immigrant farm workers, Hernandez worked alongside his parents and siblings, picking crops and spending nine months of the year in California and three months in Mexico. His family eventually settled near Stockton.
Hernandez wanted to be an astronaut after watching the Apollo 17 mission at age 10. His father encouraged him and together they plotted out a roadmap to his dreams that included perseverance (and earning a M.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UC Santa Barbara). That was good advice for Hernandez who was turned down 11 times for the space program before finally being accepted.
After extensive training, Hernandez blasted off into space on Aug. 28, 2009, to realize his dream, with his parents and second grade teacher cheering him on.