Orange County

First Mexican-Born Woman in Space is Inspiring Students to Beat the Odds

The first Mexican-born woman in space spoke to younger students to remind them that they can accomplish anything, just like she did.

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A former astronaut, a NASA engineer, and a trailblazer who has worked on telescope for JPL. Students at one Orange County school were inspired by a former astronaut, NASA engineer, and trailblazer that left with stars in their eyes.

She has made the giant leap from Earth to space at 26-years-old, Katya Echazarreta was the first Mexican-born woman to leave the Earth's orbit.

Six months later she wants students at Magnolia Academy to know, for them the sky is also the limit.

Her story is one of sacrifice.

She worked at McDonald's and saved $1,000 to move her mother and siblings out of a bad situation.

She uses that experience to explain life on a teenager's terms.

She went on to become a NASA engineer and says she was an "astronaut groupie" before she became one herself.

Echazarreta knew the odds were against her which was part of her message. She was chosen from a field of 7,000 to be the one to go into space.

The message comes with a challenge. McDonald's has half a million dollars in scholarships to give out to 30 college bound students across the country.

"The resources are there so I hope they take advantage of it and make something of themselves," said Victor Quiroz, a McDonald's store owner.

Students at Magnolia Academy focus on science, art, and math.

Echazaretta says during her 90-minute space trip she experienced what's known as the overview effect. A shift in thinking that she says happens to everyone who sees the Earth from afar.

"People going to space are pilots, scientists, and military people who never envisioned themselves as humanitarians or activists are coming back as just that," Echazaretta said.

Her goal now is to effect more change from students who still have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

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