SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The first Mexican-born woman in space made visited a high school in Orange County, where she spoke to students about the importance of seeking a higher education.
Katya Echazarreta shared her out-of-this-world experience during a McDonald's HACER Education tour stop in Santa Ana at Magnolia Science Academy.
She told students: "The reality finally sets in and you realize that you're about to get on top of a controlled explosion because that's really what it is."
Katya made history in June, when she joined a diverse international crew aboard the fifth passenger flight by Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space travel venture. She now uses her platform to encourage Hispanic students to seek greatness.
"This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go to a four year college," Echazarreta said. "You can go to a trade school, you can go to community college, you can get a certificate. There's so many different ways to get that education but the key here is figuring out what it is you like and learn more about it. "
The electrical engineer has worked at NASA but her first job was at a McDonald's.
"Not only does it teach you for the first time about making your own money," she said, "it also teaches you for the first time to be around so many different kinds of people. It teaches you kindness. It teaches patience but also it can be a jumping stone to propel you into the rest of your career."
Echazarreta said everyone, no matter their background, has to take it upon themselves to seek something that may seem out of reach.
"In order to change your life you have to be the one to make that choice," she said. "It can't be forced on you. It can't be put on you."
Echazarreta said she's an example that the sky is not the limit when it comes to achieving your goals.
It's a message that resonated with many students.
Alondra Martinez, a senior at Magnolia Science Academy said, "It really showed me just because you came from that background doesn't mean you can't do what she did. She went to college. She literally went to space. A Hispanic woman going to space -- that's amazing. That really shows me that I can do whatever that I can and I want, so I want to keep pushing."
Duilio Cortes, a senior at the school, said, "If they're passionate about something, if their environment is right, if they have the right motivation, if they have the right support they can make it big. They can do whatever they want."
Echazarreta said everyone has potential. She wants eligible seniors to apply for the McDonald's HACER National Scholarship.
Editor's note: This report was originally published in December 2022.