By Misty DUPLESSIS
On Friday, 300 upper grade students from Chamlian Armenian School filled the auditorium as they waited for the morning’s special visitors – thanks to the help of fellow student Shant Armenian.
A fourth grader and space enthusiast, Armenian wrote to Congressman Adam Schiff expressing his desire to have an astronaut speak at his school.
Armenian got the idea of sharing his passion for the science with classmates after attending an astronomy club meeting in which he has belonged to for the last two years.
When Schiff received Armenian’s request he reached out to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA – and NASA astronaut Gregory Errol Chamitoff accepted Schiff’s invitation.
“We are just so lucky not only to have an astronaut, but to have this astronaut,” Schiff said as he welcomed Chamitoff to share the journey that led him to and through space.
Chamitoff described what it was like as a young boy watching shows with his father about space and how “Star Trek” ultimately led him to follow his dream of galaxy exploration.
After having flown to the International Space Station on May 31, 2008 and spending 198 days in space, Chamitoff was able to share with the students a lighthearted video tour of his time away from Earth.
The astronaut asked students to vocalize their career ambitions and passed along words of encouragement.
“Whatever your dreams are, whatever you want to do, you can have those dreams, but there are a few things you have to do.
“First thing you have to believe, you have to believe you can do it. The other thing is for you guys [to] work hard in school,” Chamitoff said.
The 9-year-old student credits his grandmother for nurturing his interest in the subject through years of reading books about space, and his entire family has provided support to him over the years by taking him on annual JPL visits and trips to the Griffith Park Observatory.
Principal Vazken Madenlian said that the kids were very excited over the unique science experience.
“[The school] has a good science program, we are a very strong science oriented school,” said Madenlian adding that on many occasions that school has received first place awards in various science fairs.
Equipped with a telescope, support and ambition, Armenian plans to become an astronaut and be the first person to go to Mars.