EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — At East LA’s newest middle school, the name on the wall belongs to a pioneer and a dreamer who was born in Los Angeles.
Sixth grade students at Animó Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School gave the first Latina astronaut a warm reception Friday.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa, who was also the first Latina to be named the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, was peppered with questions on how she became the first Latina to become an astronaut.
“I hope that my background and me being able to talk about the importance of education to my career will really give them something to think about,” Ochoa said. “An incentive to set goals for themselves.”
The school opened two weeks ago with a student body that is 99 percent Hispanic.
Carla Ruiz, 11, said that seeing Ochoa’s success is important.
“I’m Hispanic too myself and I want to follow her footsteps,” Carla said.
The campus is run by the non-profit group Green Dot Schools. The vast majority of its students are economically disadvantaged, which is why the word animó is included in most of the school names.
“So animó in Spanish means something like spirited. Something with vigor. Something that you do with passion,” Principal Marco Duran said.
Ochoa wowed the students with stories about space travel – and she told them why astronauts eat tortillas instead of bread in a zero gravity environment.
“What happens to crumbs in space? They’re floating all around the cabin, right?” Ochoa said. “And as you float, you can get crumbs in your eye. You can get them in your nose. They can get into equipment.”
The school, which has 50 spots left, is still taking applications. To find out more, go to Green Dot Public Schools’ website.