Pittsburg High recently played host to a former astronaut and engineer. During the school's Cesar Chavez event, Jose Hernandez took the stage to share tales of his life with the Johnson Space Center (2001-2009).

"I feel so excited (Hernandez) was able to be on our campus," said teacher Eugenia Rodriguez, who organized the event. "I knew he was the right person to serve as a role model for our students." She said the students really enjoyed his nearly hour presentation.

During his two assemblies, the Stockton native and Franklin High grad spoke about his career, what type of work he did in space and took questions from the students. He also emphasized the importance of education and it being the "number one goal."

"He listened and answered (all questions)," Rodriguez said. "He's a very humble man. He was inspirational to all."

Before heading to Houston, Hernandez worked as an engineer (1987-2001), who helped develop equipment for full-field digital mammography system at Lawrence Livermore Lab. A multi-award winner, his prizes include two NASA Service awards and the Outstanding Engineer Award from the Lab.

Before leaving the Pittsburg campus, Hernandez donated some books, which included the aptly titled "Reaching for the Stars."

DONATIONS NEEDED -- STAT: There's not much time, but Reyna Martinez hopes to get enough contributions to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum.


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The Freedom High sophomore recently received news that she was accepted to the program, thanks to teacher Jason Fletcher's nomination.

"We are finding it a bit hard to come up with the funds for her to attend ...," said Niltza Martinez, her mother. "We have set up a website in hopes that we can raise the funds."

Having only recently received the good news, there's only a few weeks to gather the $3,000 to attend the June event in Los Angeles.

The 15-year-old has plans to attend a university with hopes of becoming a marine biologist.

Her mother thinks it would be a wonderful experience for her daughter, who has "overcome four spinal surgeries and a case of meningitis" to be able to go this 10-day program.

Born with a tethered spinal cord (related to spinal bifida), "we never knew if she would walk or have side effects."

But she has come a long way.

Because of her early health issues, Martinez feels this is an even more important reason to get her daughter to this medical forum.

"She will get to view many different aspects of the medical field besides just being a patient."

The forum includes visits to prominent medical schools, health care facilities, Q&As with medical students and more. According to a news release, it will help Reyna's "communication, critical thinking and decision-making skills ... that (make) a strong leader."

For more info on how to help Reyna, visit www.gofundme.com/2bwutc

HOOP, THERE HE IS: Deer Valley's Marcus Lee continues his winning streak by making the McDonald's All American Games official roster.

For the first time in four years, the Bay Area is being represented. In addition to the Antioch athlete, basketball stars from Richmond's Salesian High, San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High and Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High will play in the prestigious contest. Held in Chicago, it was broadcast live on ESPN on April 3.

This year's teams were selected from a field of more than 800 nominees. Since 1978, more than 1,100 players have competed in the Games, forming an elite list of some of the top names in basketball history including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker and Maya Moore, according to the news release.

Lee, a power forward, is ranked 18th by ESPN and will attend University of Kentucky this fall. The news release adds that coaches said, "Lee's tremendous work ethic and dedication to putting his team first set him apart from the 2013 recruiting class." A recent event at an Antioch McDonald's gathered teammates, family, coaches, school staff and community supporters to congratulate Marcus before he left for the Games. Management presented Marcus with Games gear and donated 20 percent of sales during the send-off to Deer Valley "to help develop future exceptional student athletes and scholars." The school was given $300. For more info, visit www.mcdaag.com.

STATE CHAMPS ABOUND: The Odyssey of the Mind program recently held its state contest at Brentwood's Heritage High, with an East County school taking a top spot.

Krey Elementary placed first in the ARTchitecture: The Musical Div IA. The Brentwood team now heads to the World tournament in East Lansing, Mich., May 22-25.

Other schools, which made it to the State finals were Brentwood Elementary, Garin Elementary, Antioch's Holy Rosary and Bristow Middle.

Odyssey is available to students from kindergarten through college. Team members use creativity to solve problems, ranging from building mechanical gadgets to showing a new interpretation of literary classics. Solutions are then showcased in competitions at local, state and world level. Thousands of teams from the U.S. and about 25 other countries participate. For more info, visit www.sfbayodysseyofthemind.org.

If you have school news to share, contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net. You can also reach Judith Prieve at jprieve@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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