Millions of kids dream of going into space. But Jose Hernandez made that dream a reality — and he did so against incredible odds.
As the son of Mexican migrant farm workers, his education was constantly interrupted as his family followed the changing crops. Often, they would spend December through February in Mexico.
Hernandez and his siblings would home school themselves with assignments from their American teachers during those months. But with all of the constant interruptions, Hernandez didn’t become fluent in English until he was 12.
But through perseverance, Hernandez managed to earn a Master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara and attain his goal of becoming an astronaut. Not only has he traveled into space as the mission specialist to the International Space Station, but he now runs his own foundation, Reaching for the Stars.
The group aims to get youth in central California interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and provides first-generation high school seniors with scholarships.
Here’s Hernandez’s American success story:
What was life like growing up?
My childhood was typical of a migrant farm working family, a family that spends nine months out of the year picking fruits and vegetables from Southern California to Northern California. While others looked forward to summer vacation, I hated it. Summer vacation meant working seven days a week in the fields.
I had it easier than the rest of my brothers and sisters. I had three older siblings to help me with my schoolwork.
My mom would sit us down at the kitchen table and we wouldn’t be allowed to leave until we finished our homework. She motivated all of us by having confidence and high expectations. It wasn’t if we went to college, it was when.
Life was rough, but we didn’t know it. It was just what we were used to.
But then as a teenager I was embarrassed because we lived in the barrio. We lived in areas that were run down because those were the areas where we could afford to live.