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MYVOS Talks

From Farmworker to NASA: How José Hernández Overcame All Odds to Become an Astronaut

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Source: Jose Moreno Hernandez

José Moreno Hernández was the first first-generation Mexican American astronaut working for NASA. He is also an engineer, and he served as chief of the Materials and Processes branch of Johnson Space Center.

Hernández’s parents immigrated to California from Mexico when they were young, and they spent their lives setting up the lifestyle that Hernández grew up in. He was born in the US, and his brother and sister were born in Mexico. Hernández grew up bilingual and was an interpreter for his partners because they did not speak English.

Aside from Hernández’s past career as an astronaut, he has also held the positions of President and CEO of two consulting firms, Pt Strategies, LLC and Tierra Luna Engineering. He also started the José M. Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and educates students about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

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Hernández remembers watching the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 when he was 10 years old. When he saw Gene Cernan walk on the moon, he felt his own passion for space exploration grow. He knew that space was where his future was.

After his dream of becoming an astronaut was born, Hernández told his father about his desire to work for NASA. According to Hernández, even though his father only had a third-grade education, he used his wisdom to give Hernández advice that would strengthen his journey toward accomplishing his dream.

“He had the wisdom to do two key things that night. He empowered me into believing that I could do it and gave me five important terms of advice.”

These terms were:

  1. Decide what you want to be in life
  2. Recognize how far you are from your goal
  3. Draw yourself a road map from where you are to where you want to be
  4. Educate yourself
  5. Put effort into your work

“Always do more than what people ask for,” said Hernández.

One of the most effective things that Hernández learned during his application process to get into NASA was the importance of perseverance. After being denied 11 times, Hernández reevaluated his passion for going to space and realized that he needed to do more than just meet the qualifications.

Hernández took steps to improve his application by studying to be a pilot and earning a scuba diving license. He was selected as one of the hundred finalists, but he did not make it to the next selection round. He applied again and went through the same process three times before finally being accepted into NASA as an astronaut.

Going to space is very risky and has many challenges. Hernández learned many hard lessons while out in space.

“One of the things you learn a lot is the importance of working on a team. The importance of teamwork and having faith that your colleagues are going to do what they are supposed to be doing.” 

As mentioned earlier, Hernández also started the José Moreno Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and educates students about careers in STEM. The foundation was established in 2006.

Hernández wanted to excite kids and motivate them to strive for careers in STEM. He wanted to provide role models for kids to be exposed to year-round and offer them the opportunity to participate in a STEM academy. The foundation has many success stories and has changed the lives of many kids.

Hernández ran for Congress as a Democrat in California a few years ago. He was inspired to join the world of politics because he had practiced leadership from a young age. He saw this as another opportunity to lead people and utilize the power of teamwork that he had experienced during his time at NASA.

Trump has been vocal about anti-immigration and has sparked action against Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Hernández believes that immigration reform is very important in these times, and he strives to repair the immigration laws that the Trump administration has torn down since stepping into office.

One of Hernández’s many admirable features is that he has never let his circumstances define his dreams. He has faced multiple rejections from NASA, but he has never given up. According to Hernández, failure is a part of life. It is about learning the rules of the game and keeping your eyes on your goals.

“There is a negative connotation of losing. If you never attempt things, you will never fail, but you will also never achieve anything.”


Hernández is thankful for everyone in his life who has supported him through his many challenges and personally thanks his wife for her unconditional love for him.

He has written multiple books, all of which are available on his website, to share his story with others and motivate readers to reach for the stars, just as he did.

Credits:
Host & Producer: Cielo
Developer: Nick Murrin
Editor & Writer: Sydney Murphy

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MYVOS Talks

Meet Grace Strobel-The Down Syndrome Model Elevating Empathy In the Modeling World

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Grace Strobel wearing a white shirt and jeans smiling.
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Grace Strobel is a Down syndrome model taking the modeling industry by storm.  At 24, she has signed with three modeling agencies and recently became the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line. Grace, through her career, strives to promote acceptance and the illumination of gifts and talents of all people. She is also committed to being a light for people with disabilities

The Grace Effect is a 45-minute presentation that Grace created in 2017 to educate others on what it is like for her to live with Down syndrome, and the importance of practicing kindness, respect, and overcoming struggles. When Strobel was working in the lunchroom, other kids made fun of her for not being able to do certain tasks at school. Through the victimization, Strobel realized that the other kids didn’t understand what it was like for her to live with Down syndrome, especially through the lack of fine motor skills that make her syndrome more apparent. Her mother, Linda Strobel, has been incredibly supportive throughout her daughter’s journey of launching The Grace Effect

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“Sometimes people fear what they don’t understand,” said Linda 

Through her projects and her modeling career, Strobel has been given a voice and a chance to change peoples’ understanding of disabilities. Strobel began by posting photos on her Instagram and Facebook accounts, and she was soon discovered by a modeling agency. She has now walked the runway in St. Luis and Atlantic City, N.J., and virtually in Runway of Dreams and New York Fashion Week. Strobel’s parents are proud of how much she has been able to accomplish this early in her career and how strong she has been in getting over her challenges. 

“Our biggest triumphs are our biggest struggles,” said Linda.

Strobel’s father, Jeff, appreciates all of the kindness people have shown his daughter and family. He has also supported her in her career. Strobel is now just 24 years old, and has paved the way for many other people to step into the spotlight and break more barriers in the fashion industry, and many other industries with limited career opportunities for those with disabilities. 

“I knew she was beautiful and I always knew that she had value and worth to the world,” said Linda

Strobel believes that she was called to advocate for herself and others. When speaking to others who feel ostracized, or feel that they don’t have the worth to be in the spotlight, Strobel encourages them to “speak for themselves, be confident, work hard, and never give up.” 

“I’m a model, I’m a speaker, I’m an advocate,” said Grace

Confidence is an important factor in modeling and Strobel has practiced positive affirmations and body positivity to build up her confidence. Everyone has their own insecurities, and the message that Strobel is spreading shows people that no matter who you are or what you are living with, no one deserves negative judgment.

The Grace Effect also addresses the danger of cyberbullying and the importance of kids hiding behind computer screens putting themselves in the shoes of the kids they are attacking. She is not only helping those who are victims of bullying, but she is also helping bullies see the harm that they are inflicting. 

“I know she is changing minds and hearts one speech at a time. She is helping people see others in a valued way,” said Linda

Strobel is overcoming the standards of the modeling world. She is part of the movement that is breaking down race, body image, accessibility, and many other stereotypes of the modeling/fashion industry. The world still has a long way to go with its acceptance of disabilities. Strobel has learned of the importance of surrounding herself with a support system.

Credits:
Host & Producer & Editor: Cielo
Developer: Mark Starbinski
Editor & Writer: Sydney Murphy

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MYVOS Talks

Outliving Cancer and Changing Lives Through Exploration-Meet Angelina Mangiardi

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Angelina Mangiardi sitting outside, laughing

Angelina Mangiardi (aka “Katniss”) grew up in Western Massachusetts on a farm where she grew to love nature and thrived in the open countryside. At just nineteen, her life completely turned upside down after she was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC to pursue her dream of entering the fashion industry as a stylist but she had to put her dreams on hold to start chemo treatment.

Mangiardi’s battle with cancer was a tough one but she never lost hope. Mangiardi’s treatment plan involved six 21-day cycles of chemotherapy, with a 96-hour infusion and five-day hospital stay required with each treatment. After finishing chemo, Mangiardi completed nineteen grueling rounds of radiation. After six painful months of treatment, the cancer was gone.

“Everything happened so quickly that I just went into survival mode,” explains Mangiardi. 

While in the hospital, Angelina started researching cancer resources, and she stumbled upon First Descents, an outdoors program for cancer patients that completely changed her life. She got to experience the healing power of spending time outdoors, and she formed a passion for bringing people closer to nature. With her shifting dreams, Mangiardi studied environmental science and worked as the Environmental Education Program Assistant at Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After experiencing many adventures in Alaska, she went to work as the Farm-to-School Coordinator for Mālama Kaua’i, a non-profit organization working for sustainability across Kaua’i. Mangiardi kept up with her leadership responsibilities and later on, decided to continue where she had left off with her passion for introducing others to the natural world. She returned to First Descents after her first year in remission and joined the team as the Program Coordinator to help introduce others to the power of adventure that she had discovered while she was a participant in the program. 

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Mangiardi’s motto is, “outliving it” because she has connected with the importance of surviving cancer and going outside of her comfort zone to live whatever life she wants for herself no matter what may challenge her along the way. 

“Everything in my life, the career path, and things that fulfill me all stem from the lessons I learned from surviving cancer.”

As Mangiardi reflects on what it was like in the moment of being told that she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, she remembers how she needed to understand how to cope. That she did not need to stay perfectly strong the entire time. She needed to live positively, but also accept that there would be times when it was okay to not be okay. When she did need to break down and let out the negative emotions that she may try to hold in. Mangiardi has gotten to meet and connect with many other young adults dealing with similar challenges as she has. 

“There is this unspoken bond and instant connection between us. Everyone in the cancer community understands it.”

First Descents is one of the ways Mangiardi has felt this bond with others. She has gotten to go climbing, boating, surfing, and reclaim her life through the First Descents program. She has transitioned from a participant to a Program Coordinator. 

Discovering the rock climbing program at First Descents changed Mangiardi’s perspective on the challenges she faced. She focuses on accessibility and adaptability at First Descents to make sure that no matter the medical situation people are in, they are welcome in the program. First Descents offers outdoor experiential programming, skill development, and aims to improve the long-term survivorship of young adults living with serious health conditions. Mangiardi sees the importance of keeping nature in our daily lives and the impact it can have on our mental health. 

“Find ways to connect with your environment and what is around you.” 

The power that this program has had on so many young peoples’ lives is being spread through social media for others to discover. Check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and share about this amazing opportunity with anyone you know who may appreciate this program as much as Mangiardi. Help more people discover the beauty of nature and outlive their own challenges. 

Credits:
Host & Producer: Cielo
Editor & Writer: Sydney Murphy

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MYVOS Talks

How Latin Grammy Award-Winning Artist Tony Succar Brought Unity Through his Music

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Tony Succar, standing in a leather jacket and white t-shirt, holding drum sticks and smiling at the camera

Tony Succar is a Latin GRAMMY Award-winning producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer/arranger, and musician based out of Miami, Florida. He was born in Lima, Peru, and moved to the United States when he was just 2-years-old. Succar has been nominated for a Latin Grammy Award in four separate categories, winning Best Salsa Album and Producer of the Year in 2019. He spends the majority of his time recording and performing music. He loves what he does and maintains a balance between his personal life and work in entertainment

Music began as a hobby for Succar following in the footsteps of his parents. Succar’s father Antonio F. Succar is a pianist and his mother Mimy Succar Tayrako Sakaguchi is a singer. They have both continued to be Succar’s strongest supporters throughout his music career.

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The first musical instrument Succar learned how to play was the Peruvian Cajon and then as a teenager, moved on to playing the drums with his parents’ band. Aside from playing instruments, Succar also played on several soccer teams and won the 2004 state championships with his high school team. Though he loved playing soccer, Succar had already discovered his true passion for music and began his journey into the music industry. 

“Follow your dreams, never give up, and have the discipline to truly dedicate yourself to what you are passionate about.” 

In pursuit of higher education, Succar was accepted to the Florida International University’s School of Music and he joined the Latin Jazz ensemble. After gaining a Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Performance in 2008, he gained a master’s degree in 2010. Succar built a network of musicians throughout his university years that he continued to maintain into his professional career. Shortly after, his music career took off when he released a music album in 2015. 

Tony Succar, sitting next to a drum set with one leg crossed over the other, sitting and smiling while looking into the camera

Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson is a musical tribute to Micheal Jackson. It includes 14 Jackson songs that are rewritten to include Latin influences and features more than 100 Latin superstar musicians. Succar raised the funds for the project by fundraising and putting unwavering work into outreach projects. The entire project took about five years to complete and Succar spoke about the importance of looking at every aspect of the product when creating something that will continue to be incorporated into the lives of others.

“It’s not only the music, but it’s also the presentation of it, the brand, the story, and how you make the content, how you reach the public.” 

Succar is motivated by the satisfaction of seeing something go through the long hard process of being born. He is energized by the thought of creating something that can give joy to others. He spoke about the importance of staying disciplined in decision making and delegation. Succar always makes sure he is hands-on with his projects to keep everything flowing the way he has imagined it. 

“Never give up. You don’t need to be born into a family of extremely successful people in order to make it.” 

Losing everything he had worked for at the beginning of his project gave Succar the courage to work even harder in order to complete the Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson album. Succar is now working on his documentary based on his powerful story of overcoming challenges in order to get to the place in his music career he is today. He is now taking this year to plan for the future. Succar has learned a lot about himself and acknowledges that every obstacle that he has overcome has given him the motive to continue to dedicate himself to what he believes in. 

“Never leave anything for tomorrow what you can do today.”

Credits:
Host & Producer: Cielo
Developer: Samuel Holtzman
Editor & Writer: Sydney Murphy

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