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José Hernández

Reach For the Stars

October 2, 2018
By Allison Johnson, Blog Editor 

José Hernández and the audience look at his NASA portrait.

Dr. José Hernández told his story of perseverance at the LBJ Distinguished Lecture on September 25. A testimony about a successful man from humble beginnings gives everyone hope that we can achieve our goals one day. Hope is good. It gives us the feeling that anything is possible, but that alone won’t get you there.

You might think José Hernández wasn’t on a level playing field because he wasn’t fluent in English till he was 12 — or the fact that he came from a family of migrant farm workers. I’m sure if you were to look at the backgrounds of most astronauts they probably didn’t have the same childhood as Hernández. Hernández never used it as an excuse though. He knew what he wanted to achieve in life, and that’s his first step to success.

Hernández had a goal, and a supportive family behind him. His next step towards success was to recognize how far he was from his goal. He knew he needed to continue his education after graduating high school. Hernández obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering then earned a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.

Next, Hernández knew he needed a roadmap to his goal. He got his degree, now he needed more work experience. After working as an engineer, Hernández submitted his first application to NASA. For the next 11 years, Hernández would begin to receive rejection letters. Determined to figure out what the next step was to become an astronaut, Hernández began to ponder what current astronauts had on their resumé.

He learned many were pilots and even went through scuba diving training. Hernández learned how to fly and scuba dive. After adding more qualifications to his résumé, Hernández knew he could also do something else that would make him stand out. He became fluent in Russian. Many astronauts were from Russia. Being able to understand his peers that spoke another language was a plus.

After his 12th application, Hernández finally received his congratulations letter from NASA. The years of committing to learning skills such as speaking Russian, flying, and scuba diving are a reflection of Hernández’s perseverance and work ethic. He learned from a young age what a good work ethic was. Hernández said: “Always remember to deliver what people expect from out of you.”

José Hernández saw himself as an astronaut the day he saw Gene Cernan walk on the moon. He told his family that was his dream, and his family knew he would someday become an astronaut. Hernández’s family saw so much potential in their children if they preached the importance of work ethic and education. If you have a strong support system that has invested in your education, or talents, deliver what they expect out of you. Reach for the stars, and never settle. You will achieve everything you want in life if you invest in your career and never give up.

I know at times going to class and doing well on exams may feel like you’re just going through the motions to get your degree, but there’s so much more you can do now to qualify yourself for your dream job. Whether it’s getting an internship, finding a new job, becoming certified in a skill, or even building the courage to move for new opportunities, you have to put in every drop of effort that you can. If you do that, every opportunity you wanted, and more will come your way.