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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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The Stellar Journey of José Hernández

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José Hernández. Photo Roberto Hugo González
José Hernández. Photo Roberto Hugo González
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By Roberto Hugo González

In an inspiring and memorable event, over 6,000 students gathered at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg to attend a special screening of “A Million Miles Away.” This motivational film tells the incredible story of José Hernández, who, despite beginning his life as a migrant farmworker at the age of six, dared to dream of space travel. 

High school students viewed the film “A Million Miles Away” at the Bert Ogden Arena. Photo Roberto Hugo González

The mascots “Cash” from Lone Star National Bank and Dr. Teddy E. Bear are pictured above. Also featured are José Hernández, the former astronaut and author of “A Million Miles Away,” Julian Alvarez, Senior vice president at Lone Star National Bank, and actor Bobby Soto. Photo Roberto Hugo González

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The film, part of his biographical series “Reaching for the Stars,” highlights his journey to becoming the first Mexican American astronaut. Held during Financial Literacy Month, the screening provided an educational experience and an opportunity for students to interact directly with Hernández, who was present to talk to students and answer their questions. He shared his story of perseverance, having been rejected by NASA 11 times before his eventual selection in May 2004.

The students were allowed to engage with José Hernández by posing questions. At the end of the event, each received a book “A Million Miles Away.” Photo Roberto Hugo González

Hernández’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary. From his early days working in the fields as the child of migrant farmers to reaching the stars as an astronaut, his story proves the relentless pursuit of one’s dreams regardless of the obstacles. His book, and consequently the film “A Million Miles Away,” chronicles this incredible journey, aiming to inspire others to never lose sight of their aspirations.

The event was more than just a movie screening, which was arranged and sponsored by partnering with Lone Star National Bank, DHR Health, and the Region One Education Service Center. It encouraged educational inspiration, highlighting the importance of financial literacy and perseverance in achieving one’s dreams. Hernández added profound authenticity and relatability to the narrative as he shared personal insights and encouragement.

The mascots “Cash” from Lone Star National Bank and Dr. Teddy E. Bear are pictured above. Also featured are José Hernández, the former astronaut and author of “A Million Miles Away,” Julian Alvarez, Senior vice president at Lone Star National Bank, and actor Bobby Soto. Photo Roberto Hugo González

A Million Miles Away: More Than Just a Movie

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The film itself serves as a crucial educational tool. It entertains and educates, making complex themes of persistence, education, and dreaming big and engaging for young minds. Hernández exemplifies that determination and education can overcome insurmountable barriers through his story.

The collaboration between various organizations for this event stresses the community’s dedication to fostering educational opportunities and supporting youth encouragement. By bringing together resources and networks, the partners involved have demonstrated a commitment to creating platforms where inspirational figures like Hernández can share their stories and motivate the next generation.

José Hernández, the former astronaut, interacts with a high school band as he attempts to play the cymbals. Photo Roberto Hugo González

The impact of such an event is long-lasting. For many students, hearing from a figure like Hernández, who has reached astronomical heights, transforms the abstract concept of ‘dreaming big’ into a tangible reality. It bridges the gap between distant dreams and achievable goals, instilling in them the belief that no dream is too distant and no goal is unattainable.

Hernández’s early life was marked by a rhythmic labor and migration pattern that challenged and shaped him. Born into a family of migrant farmworkers, Hernández spent his childhood moving across the United States, following the cycles of various crops. Each year, his family would sweat in the fields of California, picking strawberries and cucumbers during the grueling summer months. The work was arduous, and the days were long, but during these years, Hernández learned the values of hard work and perseverance.

A High school band at the Bert Ogden Arena with former astronaut José Hernández. Photo Roberto Hugo González

After the harvest season concluded in the United States, Hernández and his family would embark on a journey back to their hometown in La Piedad Michoacán, Mexico. These three-month respites were a time for rest and family bonding, away from the harsh demands of fieldwork. However, even during these breaks, Hernández’s drive for education did not fade. He used this time to absorb his parents’ lessons and nurture his growing interest in science and astronomy, often stargazing on clear nights, dreaming of a life far beyond the agricultural plains.

As the new harvesting season approached, the family would return to the U.S., migrating through multiple states, wherever the crops were ready for harvest. This nomadic lifestyle was tough, but it instilled in Hernández a resilience and adaptability that would later prove invaluable. These experiences laid a strong foundation for his future pursuits, teaching him the importance of dedication and the power of dreaming big, regardless of humble beginnings.

José Hernández’s life story, encapsulated in the film “A Million Miles Away,” goes beyond mere entertainment. It is a powerful narrative of perseverance, education, and the undying human spirit to reach for the stars—quite literally. Through his journey, Hernández continues to inspire thousands of young minds to look beyond their circumstances and aspire for greatness, making his story a hope and a template for success against all odds.

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