Celebrated Hispanic astronaut gives HISD students out-of-this-world surprise

As students gathered in the Deady Middle School auditorium on Friday, Sept. 15, they thought they knew what they were in for. Deady students, along with students from Milby High School and Davila Elementary, were treated the day before to a preview screening of the new Amazon Prime film, A Million Miles Away, the life story of astronaut José Hernández. Little did they know that José Hernández himself was waiting in the wings to surprise them.

Students were joined by Superintendent Mike Miles, who regaled them with the story of how he overcame a speech impediment to become a United States diplomat to Russia and then, eventually, the superintendent of HISD. Miles invited students to share their greatest ambition, which ranged from being the first Latina on the moon to becoming an internet content creator for children.

“You’re in charge of your dream,” Miles said. “Don’t let anyone else take charge of your dream.”

Then, Miles introduced Hernández to an eruption of cheers.

The former astronaut, who began his journey to space watching the Apollo 17 launch on television at 10 years old, shared the story of how that 10-year-old became a NASA flight engineer. Hernández was a migrant farm worker alongside his family in his youth, and through hard work and perseverance, he went to college, then graduate school, and developed technology for digital mammography imaging and, after 11 brutal rejections, was finally accepted into the NASA space program.

Hernández’ visit to Deady coincided with the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, and he credits his heritage and life lessons from his father for instilling in him the drive and motivation to achieve his dreams. Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration which honors the culture, accomplishments, and contributions of Latino and Hispanic Americans.

“My Hispanic heritage played a great role [in my becoming an astronaut] because working as a migrant farm worker, I developed a good work ethic attitude that took me up into space,” said Hernández. “It’s important to work hard.”

HISD offers many programs that include STEM and IT curriculums, from magnet schools to career and technical education, for students who, like Hernández, see a future among the stars. For more information on these programs, visit the Office of School Choice website.