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Astronaut tells students dedication leads to success

Maj. Anne McClain, NASA astronaut, speaks to Fort Rucker Elementary School students during an assembly at the school March 10. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Maj. Anne McClain, NASA astronaut, speaks to Fort Rucker Elementary School students during an assembly at the school March 10. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: March 21, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 21, 2016) -- Many children have dreams about becoming an astronaut, a dream that many might think is reaching beyond the stars, but students at Fort Rucker Elementary School had the chance to meet one person who made that dream a reality.

Maj. Anne McClain, NASA astronaut, visited FRES March 10 and spoke with children on how she conquered her fears and worked hard to make her dreams come true, something she encouraged each and every student to do with one simple message.

“It’s not in the dream, it’s in the doing,” she said.

McClain said she decided she wanted to be an astronaut at the age of 3, but that wasn’t the only time she had to make that decision. Throughout her life, she had to continually make the decision thousands of times, she told the students.

“I made the decision when I had to make the hard decisions to study more or skip playing with a friend because I knew I had a test the next day, or when I took a class that I didn’t know if I could pass,” said the NASA astronaut. “The world values finishers. It’s not enough to say you want to do something. The world doesn’t just hand you things, you have to earn it.”

McClain recalled to the students about a physics test that she had to take while attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The test she had to take was a three-hour exam, which she admitted was very intimidating.

“I just (told myself that) I’m going to study nonstop for this test, so I stayed up and I worked out every single homework problem that our teacher had given us,” she said. “I took every quiz and test we’d had up to that point, and redid them from scratch. I reread every chapter and went over every class note.”

After the test and the results were tallied, the average test score for the exam was 72 percent. McClain scored a 99 percent – the highest score on the test of the 1,200 students who participated.

“That’s not the important part of the story,” she said. “The important part is what one of my friends said to me after. She said to me, ‘I wish I was smart like you, so I didn’t have to study.’ I found that funny because I wasn’t born knowing physics and, if I hadn’t studied when I had taken that test, I would have probably gotten a D.

“You have to work really, really hard for the results to come,” said McClain, “and you can do it starting now. Study hard, dedicate yourself and get that good grade.”

She also encouraged the students to get out of their comfort zones, something McClain said she had a difficult time doing at times.

“There’s nothing easy about going out and living your dreams, and there are points that are really scary,” she said. “It’s scary because nobody likes to fail. Every time I got out of my comfort zone, it got a little bit easier. You have to scare yourself a little to go get your dreams.”

“The last thing I want you guys to do is to think big,” said the NASA astronaut. “I know it seems sometimes when you’re sitting at school that all of those big dreams and big accomplishments you guys have are for somebody else, but all the astronauts who are going to be selected in the next 30 years are sitting exactly where you are sitting.

“They’re sitting in schools – and they’re having the same fears and same hopes that you’re having,” she said. “I want you all to think outside of yourselves and believe that you can do something amazing. Our world is really big, and we need you guys to grow up and help us with some really real problems. We need you to think big and be part of the solution.”

For many of the students, McClain’s message resonated with them, and many found themselves inspired by her words.

“Major McClain’s visit to Fort Rucker Elementary School was absolutely amazing,” said Lisa Arthurs, FRES science teacher. “Not only did she talk about the journey to become an astronaut, but, more importantly, she spoke about creating dreams and working to achieve those dreams.  Her examples of life lessons made a lasting impression on our young students.”

“I liked her a lot and it made me think about what I want to be when I grow up,” said Jade Ramatowski, FRES third grader.

“It was inspiring and educational,” added Cole Voelpel, FRES fifth grader. “She made me want to be an astronaut.”

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