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

Sydney Murphy

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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

MYVOS Talks

How Johnny Ward Made Millions Travelling Around the World And Inspiring People Through His Travel Blog

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A portrait of Johnny Ward

Johnny Ward is a famous travel blogger that has traveled to every single country on the planet. 

He has built an empire blogging with his site, “One Step 4Ward.” After growing up on welfare in Ireland, attending university and moving to the United States after graduation, Ward dreamed of traveling the world country by country. 

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“I wanted to show people from around the world that you can still do what you want to do even without the proper financial support in the beginning, said Ward” 

Ward found different ways to earn his own funds to financially support his dream. In the end, he became an English teacher in Thailand, traveled around Asia, and landed jobs teaching English in other countries such as South Korea. In Australia, he realized that he wanted to share with others his experience stepping into the world. 

Johnny Ward leaning against a blow-up globe

Ward created a blog in order to teach others what he had done and how he was still able to achieve his dream of traveling the world. While traveling from Cape Town to Syria using public transport, he blogged many of his traveling days. When Ward began to earn money for the posts he was creating, he realized how much his work was appreciated by viewers and decided to continue blogging full time. Traveling came with amazing experiences and baffling stories that Ward now shares with people all over the world. 

Ward has made over 2 million blog posts, and throughout his journey, he overcame many challenges and learned how to work through trial and error. It took him a lot of self-motivation to realize that his upbringing did not have to define the rest of his life or his success. 

“People think that victimhood is some sort of currency. They argue about who’s had it hard rather than getting on with it. There is nothing stopping you from being a success.” 

After Ward grew to love each community he visited, he created a way to give back to those communities that had given him so much joy. He created Mudita Adventures, a nonprofit organization to help others take opportunities to participate in service projects all over the world. Ward’s favorite place in the world is Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he is now building a villa to celebrate his success.

A portrait of Johnny Ward.

Ward has learned a lot about the media market and has shared many of his findings with his supporters. Ward advises listeners and readers to steer clear from the idea that the marketplace is saturated. There is space for any quality product. Believe in the success that you will have in your venture. 

“Don’t get hung up on your shortcomings.”
Ward has also written an e-book, which he is offering for free on his blog website. Blogging Brought Me Here is a first-hand account of how blogging and traveling changed Ward’s life and how they can change yours as well. It even includes tips on how to start your own blog!

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

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MYVOS Talks

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

Sydney Murphy

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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

Sydney Murphy

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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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