Migrant farmer turned astronaut inspires community youth

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - A dream come true for a migrant farmer who longed to go to space ... and did! Jose Hernandez turned into an engineer and a NASA astronaut. He traveled more than 5.7 million miles in space.

On Tuesday night, he spoke to a full auditorium at Augustana College to talk about his experience growing up and moving every few months. Hernandez shared that he applied to NASA over a dozen times before he was accepted!

Hernandez knew he wanted to be an astronaut when he heard the first Hispanic-American astronaut had been announced. He was 10 years old working as a farmer with his family when he had heard the news, since then, Hernandez knew he wanted to strive to do the same.

On Tuesday night, he spoke to a full auditorium at Augustana College to talk about his experience growing up and moving every few months. Hernandez shared that he applied to NASA over a dozen times before he was accepted! His trick is to look at who you aspire to be and what they've accomplished, then follow in their footsteps. By training to be a pilot and SCUBA certified (plus extra steps) he was finally approved to move to the next steps in the application process.

There were people of all ages listening to Hernandez, with one group driving almost two hours to see a role model that looks like them. "It makes me feel proud of my culture, you can see where you come from. From low neighborhoods to becoming one of the biggest stars in the community. It's amazing," said Miranda Mascorro, Rochelle High School student.

Adalyne Gonzalez, Sophomore at Rochelle High School said came to hear Hernandez speak because it's important to hear how others grew to be successful so she can learn and follow in their footsteps. "It makes me feel proud like it's almost me who's doing all of this. When I was young, I was scared to express myself and didn't like to speak Spanish and was insecure about my accent," said Gonzalez.

Dressed up as an astronaut, five-year-old Armando Acevedo said he was "excited" to see a real-life astronaut!

Hernandez became a part of the 19th class of NASA astronauts. He wrote a bilingual children's book "The Boy Who Touched the Stars." NASA has trained more than 500 astronauts, Hernandez is one of only12 Hispanic astronauts.