First Native American Astronaut Inspires Young Dreamers

Coast students got some inspiration to follow their dreams on Wednesday. It came from NASA astronauts visiting Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. One of them made history in last November as the first Native American to travel into space. His message was that no matter where you start you can achieve your dreams.

John Herrington asked the group of Mississippi and Louisiana school children,"Who wants to be an astronaut when they grow up?"

Growing up, Herrington had dreams of going into space even though there were no other Native Americans whose footsteps he could follow. Now he's not only an astronaut but also an inspiration for other young dreamers.

"I've got a lot of kids that come back and say 'Hey, I didn't realize that this is something that I could do,'" said Herrington. "If I'm in a position where they recognize that my heritage is something they can identify with, and it makes it possible for them to achieve they're dream then, that's great. That's what it's all about."

During the visit to Stennis, students from Choctaw Central High School showed off the robot they built as part of a national competition. The students said it was hard work, but realize that the same kind of hard work paid off for John Herrington.

"It's a good feeling to give more Native Americans hope that they can do what he's doing right now and to pursue their dreams and they can do what they set their minds to," Choctaw Central High School student Brandon Farv said.

The astronauts say the journey into space started long ago when they were just little boys with big dreams.

"Really it starts when you're a little kid and when you're learning lessons from your parents and other people in school on how to be good team players, said astronaut Jim Wetherbee.

In the next few weeks Herrington, Wetherbee, Paul Lockhart and Michael Lopez-Alegria will also visit several other space centers around the country.