For Juntos 4-H ‘Day in the Life’ contest winner, the sky’s the limit

Trip to Florida, Kennedy Space Center tour part of reward for first-place essay

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Melinda Garcia, 210-631-0400, melinda.garcia@ag.tamu.edu

SAN ANTONIO — David Tierranegra, winner of the National 4-H “Day in the Life” contest  through the Juntos 4-H program in Bexar County, has returned from a trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Orlando — part of the reward for his winning essay.

Tierranegra, 16, who will be a junior at Harlandale High School in San Antonio this fall, won the trip to Florida, which included meeting retired astronaut Jose Hernandez. The award, presented in Providence Hall of Our Lady of the Lake University, included $5,000 in funding from National 4-H in Maryland to the Texas Juntos 4-H club so it could continue its after-school programming.

David Tierranegra holds check for $5,000 to Juntos 4-H. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“David won the essay competition in which Juntos 4-H program participants in both New York and Texas competed,” said Dr. Melinda Garcia, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service strategic partnerships and engagement program specialist who oversees Juntos 4-H in Bexar County. “The essay each participant wrote was about his or her experience with the Juntos 4-H program, what impact the program made individually and on the family, and what life lessons were learned by being part of the program.”

Garcia said in Texas, the Juntos 4-H is administered by AgriLife Extension in conjunction with New York Life and the Harlandale Independent School District. In Bexar County, the program has a total of 138 youth participants at Armando Leal Jr. Middle School and Harlandale High School.

“The Juntos 4-H program helps Latino youth and their families gain the knowledge and skills needed to remain in school and seek higher education,” Garcia explained. “It emphasizes family engagement and gives participants an opportunity to engage in real college experiences and develop leadership abilities.”

Tierranegra, who has been with the program for three years, said his experiences with Juntos 4-H have helped him expand his horizons.

“I’ve always felt welcome in the program and it’s given me a chance to meet people, make new friends, and visit college campuses to get an idea of what college life is like,” he said. “And not only was the trip to Florida the first time I’ve flown, it was the first time I’d even been in an airport.”

Tierranegra said meeting Hernandez was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tierranegra in Orlando with retired astronaut Jose Hernandez. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“Mr. Hernandez was very friendly and open, and he took us on a tour of the center,” he said. “It was also great to have my dad there for moral support.

“And because Mr. Hernandez is an engineer and I’m an aspiring engineer myself, it gave me a unique opportunity to learn from him and ask him lots of questions. He was very patient and happy to answer all of them.”

Tierranegra said his favorite part of the Kennedy Space Center tour was the simulator.

“I got to see what it was like for the astronauts when they were training and it gave me some idea of what it would be like to be on a space mission,” he said. “It was a great experience and I learned a lot.”

Garcia said Tierranegra’s particular experience in meeting Hernandez illustrates what the Juntos 4-H program strives to accomplish.

“The program focuses on Latino youth,” she said. “We want them to see they can become anything they want to be through hard work and higher education. And it’s important they see that others from similar backgrounds have been successful. What better example than an  astronaut to show them they can reach for the stars.”

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