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SAISD grad, former astronaut encourages students
Astronaut Bernard HarrisSam Houston High School alumnus ('74) Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. got back to his roots when he spoke with a group of ninth-grade students in his alma mater's Cyber P-TECH program. Harris, a former astronaut who has logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space, visited with the inaugural student cohort of the P-TECH program, which opened this August to ninth-graders as a school-within-a-school at Sam Houston High School. 

“We are infinite beings with infinite possibilities,” said Harris, who was the first African American to walk in space. “What that means is that each and every one of you were born with the potential, the ability to be anything that you want to be, do anything you want to do.”

On Nov. 11, Harris was visiting San Antonio with Sylvan Learning and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), with the goal of helping expand STEM education opportunities. Harris is CEO of  NMSI and the organization’s mission is to advance STEM education to ensure all students, especially those furthest from opportunity, thrive and reach their highest potential as problem solvers and lifelong learners who pursue their passions and tackle the world's toughest challenges.

Harris is also the president and founder of The Harris Foundation, Inc. (THF). The non-profit’s mission is to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. THF supports programs that empower individuals, in particular minorities and others who are economically or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams. 

“Each and every one of you were born for a reason,” he said. “There is something special that each of you are supposed to do. You have to figure out what that is. Only you can figure that out.”

Students had the chance to ask Harris about his life experiences, from what it was like to be the only African American in the room at some of his jobs to how was it possible to shower in space. Harris answered each and every one of the students’ questions, encouraging them to explore their passions and continue learning new things. 

“I never thought I would get to talk to an astronaut,” said Josiah James, Cyber P-TECH student. “What he told us, that there are infinite possibilities that you can do. Like, you are special; everyone here is special. You can do it, just don’t let anyone tell you no. Only you know what you can do.”

The students who attended Harris’ presentation were part of San Antonio’s first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), which allows students to earn a high school diploma, an associate degree, a two-year postsecondary certificate or industry certification, and complete work-based training through internships, apprenticeships, or other job-training programs. 

The Cyber P-TECH at Sam Houston High School program has a focus on preparing students with the skills, credentials and industry-specific associate degrees necessary for high-wage, high-demand careers in cybersecurity.

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