“SPACE FOR ALL STEM FESTIVAL” Featuring Former NASA Astronaut Jose M. Hernandez

On Saturday, May 4th, a free STEM event was hosted by the city of Kent (Washington State) in partnership with the Kent Community Foundation and the Kent School District. The event titled “SPACE FOR ALL, STEM FESTIVAL” was a family-friendly event that provided interactive activities, informative brochures, and fun swag for all attendees. The event was a celebration of diversity and inclusion and focused on inspiring youth in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics) careers and promoting STEM-related organizations. Over 20 vendors were in participation, and each provided their own educational activities and arts and crafts for youth and children. Some of those vendors in attendance included the King County Library System, Renton Technical College, Blue Origin (Founded by Jeff Bezos), Space for Kidz, The Museum of Flight, Green River College, and PNW Aerospace Alliance.

To conclude the event a special appearance and keynote speech was delivered by retired NASA Astronaut, Author, Farmer, Entrepreneur, and Motivational Speaker Dr. Jose M. Hernandez. Hernandez gave an uplifting speech filled with charm and humor as he spoke about his life story. The former astronaut also touched upon the importance of pursuing education and hard work. Hernandez, of Mexican-American descent, grew up in a migrant farm working family led by his tough and loving father. The family lived a nomadic lifestyle constantly traveling months and weeks out of the year to pick crops between Mexico and California as a means of living. During Hernandez’s keynote speech, he reiterated his nomadic upbringing and how that negatively affected his learning and education but strongly emphasized his 5-point ingredients for success given to him by his father; defining your purpose in life, recognizing how far you are, buying yourself a roadmap so you know how to get there, preparing yourself according to the challenge and by dedicating yourself to hard work. 

Photo Credit: City of Kent

Hernandez strongly emphasized the power of perseverance, which is key when challenges or rejections come your way, something he experienced during his career transition. Initially rejected by NASA 11 times, Hernandez was selected as an astronaut candidate on his 12th and final try. He soon immersed himself in training and was later selected for the STS-128 mission and launched into space in August of 2009. Upon seeing Apollo Mission 17 on TV, Hernandez was highly inspired to become an astronaut, a dream against all odds that became reality. Takeaways from the event, not only did Hernandez give an amazing speech to an enthusiastic crowd (primarily Latinos in attendance), but he was also given the key to the city of Kent (near Seattle) by Kent City Mayor Dana Ralph, a distinguished accomplishment and acknowledgment of Hernandez’s impact and success.

On giving advice, Hernandez gave much insight into his dedication to becoming an astronaut and what was needed to make an extraordinary impression in the selection process. He emphasized his desire to stand out from other candidates and become just as accomplished as those already working within the NASA organization. Hernandez eventually went on to earn his pilot’s license, learned to scuba dive, and took on a challenging project in Russia eventually learning the Russian language along the way. These accomplishments elevated his resume becoming vital to his NASA selection and were the differentiating factor compared to his previous applications. 

In the end, the festival was purely a special treat, and surely left a lasting impression on the youth and adults in attendance. Hernandez also mentioned “A Million Miles Away,” the film released last fall based on his life which has become a cultural phenomenon amongst Latinos and has made such a strong impact for people of all backgrounds. If you have not seen the film, I highly recommended watching it as it will highly inspire and encourage you to find your purpose and fulfill your dreams. 

Takeaway quotes of the night:

“You could dream big, but only if you’re willing to put in the hard work. Everything you want on this great planet of ours, you have to work for it and education is the great equalizer.”

“Meet the minimum requirements, make sure you have the same attributes as the people you want to be like, and make sure you have something that separates you from the competition.”

Dr. Jose M. Hernandez

Watch “A Million Miles Away,” a film based on Hernandez’s life. Available on Amazon Prime here and see our interview with Dr. Jose Hernandez here.



  • Jenny Castro

    Jenny Castro is a part of the editorial team for Latinitas Magazine. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Justice from Central Washington University, and also holds a certificate in women’s entrepreneurial studies from the University of Washington. Jenny has a passion for storytelling, and loves highlighting diverse topics such as historical events, pop-culture, music, film, and leaders in the Latino community. She strives to provoke thoughtful and factual genuine storytelling in her pieces and takes pride in researching truth and authenticity. In her free time, she spends time reading her favorite books, and watching classic Hollywood films. In 2020, Jenny also appeared as a fan programmer on the Turner Classic Movies Network where she provided commentary on classic film. She is excited to be a part of the Latinitas team.

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