Day of speakers, workshops encourage science, math fields

Astronaut among presenters providing inspiration, guidance

By Juan Ibarra/campus editor

From high school to college and even beyond, people look for their passions and try to create a career out of it. This was the focus as students listened to a variety of speakers present their life stories.

Community Day was held March 28 on South Campus to highlight the benefits of going into a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field as a career and to push students that direction.

Many events were held throughout the day with established members in the STEM field to give their insight to attendees.

Retired astronaut Jose Hernandez gave the keynote speech for the all-day event. From small beginnings, Hernandez is the youngest in a family of four children and the son of a farmer.

His parents are from Mexico and his family would spend months out of the year visiting the country in order to grow crops and tend land his father owned.

“[My dad] would say ‘Mijo, we’re going to Mexico next week,” Hernandez said. “Tell your teacher to prepare three months worth of homework.”

Hernandez went on to tell his story about how one teacher, Ms. Young, changed the way his life unfolded.

Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian
NASA Glenn Research Center’s Dionne Hernandez-Lugo stresses that students need to find out what they want to do and work hard to move past any obstacles during South Campus’ Community Day. Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian

Young spoke to his parents and convinced his father that if they kept moving to Mexico for three months out of the year, then it wouldn’t allow for Hernandez and his siblings to receive the education they needed.

“Our trips to Mexico shrank from three months to three weeks, centered around Christmas vacation,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez spoke at length about the moments in his life that inspired him to grow up to travel into space. From the first moment he saw the moon landing that inspired him to become an astronaut to the 12 times he applied to NASA, his journey was filled with ups and downs, but he eventually reached where he wanted to be.

“I’m hoping, I’m hoping, I’m hoping you guys reflect on what you want to do in life,” Hernandez said.

In addition to the motivational presentation Hernandez gave, three other speakers spoke in a session together to share their lives and stories as women who accomplished goals beyond what they once thought they could do.

Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian
Army Capt. Mayra Nanez shares her story and experience of graduating college and accomplishing her goals. Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian

Dionne Hernandez-Lugo, Army Capt. Mayra Nanez and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Amy Simek each gave a small story about a slice of their life. Nanez talked about her first job in the Army after graduating from college, where she was in charge of 27 other people.

“Most 22 year olds can barely take care of themselves,” she said.

From the different stories that were told, each woman shared their difficulties and what motivated them to keep going and reach their goals.

“Do something that you really want to do. Do something that you believe in and work really, really hard to get there,” Hernandez-Lugo said. “You will find a lot of obstacles. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be up to all of you to get it done.”

Students from nearby elementary, middle and high schools were invited to attend the event, which included workshops like “Exploring Career Pathways in Engineering” and “Social Media and Applying to a College/Job.”

“I’m trying to get past the obstacles in my life so I have a lot of connection with what I’ve heard today,” said Divine Lawson, Hillcrest High School freshman.

Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian
Ford Motor Company Fund community specialist Jennifer Cortez speaks about careers in the STEM fields during Community Day March 28 on South Campus. The event-filled day included speakers and workshops throughout. Photo by Joseph Serrata/The Collegian