Temple College hosted Dr. Jose M. Hernández, motivational speaker, NASA astronaut and engineer, for a series of lectures and meetings with high school students, college students and community members at venues in Taylor and Temple April 17-18.
Hernández’s lecture was entitled “Creating a Culture of STEM” and focused on encouraging students to investigate careers in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – and inspiring them to pursue their dreams.
He spoke at 9 a.m. April 17 at the Taylor ISD Events Center, 3101 N. Main St., Taylor, Texas, and again at 9 a.m. April 18 at Temple College’s Mary Alice Marshall Performing Arts Center, 2600 S. 1st St., Temple, Texas.
Hernández’s visit was sponsored by Temple College’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) L.E.A.D.S. team. The HSI L.E.A.D.S. team, under the leadership of Executive Director Dr. Eva M. Munguia, works with students to complete their STEM degrees by nurturing their interests and helping bridge the gap from graduation to employment.
“We are excited to bring Dr. Hernandez to Central Texas to visit with students in our service-area schools, as well as our Temple College students and community,” Munguia said. “The story of how he moved from the fields of California as a child to being a pioneer in space is inspiring, and we hope students can see that they really can shoot for the stars.”
One of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico, Hernández – who didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old – spent much of his childhood on what he calls “the California circuit,” traveling with his family from Mexico to southern California each March, then working northward to the Stockton area by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route.
“I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, Calif., and I heard on my transistor radio that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps,” said Hernández, who was a senior in high school at the time. “I was already interested in science and engineering, but that was the moment I said, ‘I want to fly in space.’”
Hernández earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and his Ph.D. in Science and Engineering.
He was turned down by NASA 11 times before being selected as part of the 19th class of astronauts in 2004. In 2009, Hernández was a mission specialist on the STS-128 mission onboard the Space Shuttle, Discovery.
After his time at NASA, he launched the Reaching for the Stars Foundation, which is dedicated to educating students and communities about STEM fields and awarding scholarships to assist individuals focusing their studies on the STEM pathways. In 2016, he received the 2016 National Hispanic Hero Award presented by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.
“More and more, we’re seeing higher demand and higher pay in STEM careers throughout the country, but especially here in Central Texas,” Munguia said. “We hope to show students that a future in these high-demand, high-paying and important careers is attainable. At Temple College, for example, we’re preparing our students for numerous careers spanning health professions, science, technology, engineering, and math. There is so much opportunity.”
For more information or to reserve tickets, contact Dana Palen, HSI STEM project assistant, by calling 254-298-8590 or emailing email@example.com.
ABOUT TEMPLE COLLEGE
Temple College is “Your Community’s College, a dynamic and growing community college that equips thousands of students throughout Central Texas and beyond with the knowledge and skills for 21st-century success. Temple College offers more than 75 degree and certificate programs to students who seek to earn credits for transfer, graduate with an associate degree, or complete a certificate for fast entry into the workforce.
Founded in 1926, Temple College has enjoyed an excellent academic reputation for 97 years. It is nationally recognized for excellence in its programs, from visual and performing arts to competitive athletics. The College has become one of the state’s premiere institutions for health care providers’ education and training, advanced manufacturing, and workforce development programs. The faculty and staff are committed to providing exceptional quality instruction.