Students With Difficult Beginnings Earn Rare Honor As NASA Grant Scholars

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A group of students is preparing for a rare opportunity to work alongside NASA scientists, but for each of the three, the road there was a rocky one.

If you asked Thomas Horning Gregoria Olivas, or Juan Garcia where life would take them, the answer today is far different than just a few years ago.

For Horning, space had always been a fascination, but when he dropped out of high school it was another story as to whether or not it would be his future.

“I ended up being homeless,” said Horning.

During that time he says his ambitions changed.

“I realized I had all this free time, and so what I did, I was staying next to a Border’s and so I’d go in there and I would use it like a library,” said Horning.

The path for Gregoria Olivias was self made, but at times destructive.

“I was in a gang. I was in the drug scene. I did a lot of things I’m not proud of,” she said.

The decision to turn her life around meant moving away from Colorado Springs, and starting a new life proved to be a challenge in itself.

“We had no money for that night, we had no ID, so we literally slept on the sidewalk in front of the Colliseum,” said Olivias.

For Juan Garcia, the journey started miles away in his home country of Guatemala.

“You can be talented, and you can be well intentioned, but things are very difficult…hard to actually move forward,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Each of their paths led to Community College of Aurora, where the three students have been chosen as NASA Grant Scholars.

In one day they’ll be in Wallops, Virginia helping to build rocket payloads that will be launched into space.

“It’s learning, learning how to put stuff in space, how can you not be excited about that!” said Harding.

The week-long workshop is a rare and potentially life changing experience, one that each student says will only continue to open doors.

“I am very excited but I’m also very nervous…because this is the people, right, this is the people, NASA,” said Garcia.

While the experience will surely add to their expanding resumes, it’s also a clear illustration that hard work pays off.

“I mean the sky’s the limit…actually the sky isn’t the limit, you know it’s beyond,” Olivias said laughing.

Despite the challenges each was faced with, all three say they would not change what they went through.

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