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Ex-astronaut offers inspiration to Pittsburgh Public Schools students | TribLIVE.com
Politics/Election

Ex-astronaut offers inspiration to Pittsburgh Public Schools students

Tribune-Review
| Monday, October 24, 2016 5:57 p.m.
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Tom Fontaine | Tribune-Review
Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first American African woman to travel to space, speaks to students at Pittsburgh’s University Prep on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. Jemison visited University Prep while in Pittsburgh to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
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Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first American African woman to travel to space, speaks to students at Pittsburgh’s University Prep on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. Jemison visited University Prep while in Pittsburgh to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

University Prep senior class president Taylor Naylor, wearing a tan sweater and black slacks, said she was glad she dressed “professionally” for school Monday instead of wearing more casual clothes like jeans and a T-shirt.

Naylor, 18, discovered after getting to school that she would greet Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first black woman to travel to space, when the former astronaut arrived at University Prep in the afternoon.

“Mae Jemison really is an inspiration,” Naylor said as she waited for Jemison outside the entrance to the school, a 6-12 magnet school in the Hill District.

Naylor, who lives in Lincoln-Lemington, said she feels a strong connection to Jemison given the latter’s rise from Chicago’s South Side to a place in history.

“I want to become the first African-American woman to be president,” Naylor said. “(Jemison) makes me believe that anything is possible.”

Jemison visited University Prep in between campaign stops for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is running to be the first female president. Jemison was scheduled to headline Clinton rallies at Chatham University and Carnegie Mellon University, then attend an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority reception at the latter.

Jemison mentioned Clinton once during her speech at University Prep, noting that she was campaigning on Clinton’s behalf in the city. When Jemison asked how many students in the audience were registered to vote, very few raised their hands. She told them to go to the polls on Election Day and encouraged the other students to urge their voting-age family members and friends to do the same.

Jemison focused her remarks on trying to inspire the students to strive for greatness.

“The most important thing is, what kind of person do you intend to be? Jobs will come, and they will change. … It’s more important for you to decide what you want the world to be like and go from there,” Jemison said.

Jemison graduated from high school and enrolled at Stanford University when she was 16. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering there and later a medical degree from Cornell University. After working as a general practitioner and serving as a doctor in the Peace Corps, Jemison entered NASA’s astronaut program.

In 1992, Jemison completed an eight-day mission in which she orbited Earth 127 times and served as a co-investigator on a bone-cell research experiment.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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