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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Speaker tells students not to give up

Astronaut Bernard Harris was the first black man to walk in space. | Amanda Scott/The Daily Cougar

Astronaut Bernard Harris spoke for the second time at University of Houston on the empowerment of youth, especially in minorities, in a lecture hosted by the UH Urban Experience Program Tuesday night in the UC World Affairs Lounge.

“Many young kids lose the ability to dream because they are not encouraged,” said Harris of his “Dare to Dream Program,” which helps students with challenging backgrounds and difficulties to dream starting in elementary school.

“Many college students are clueless about what they want to do — they are afraid to dream because dreams are powerful, and they empower us,” Harris said.

A panel of successful African-Americans, such as former NFL player Tyrone Smith and Emmy award-winning journalist Linda Lorelle, also spoke about their efforts to engage minority students to dream and succeed.

“Things happen in our lives and we see it as a failure,” Harris said.

“We can run up against obstacles, and we think it is all over or meant to be when it could just be a redirection to something greater.”

Harris told the audience about his own failure — the first time he applied to be an astronaut, he was turned down.

“You need to tweak what you are doing or turn and deviate just a little bit and it will lead to something greater,” he said.

He later worked for NASA, built a reputation, reapplied to be an astronaut and was selected for the mission.

Harris also says that not all students come from the same backgrounds and situations in his  book “Dream Walker.”

“We connect with great people that are advocates of this program such as Mayor Annise Parker and Dr. Bernard,” said Naeem Abdullah, a technology senior.

“They look out for … the well being of students, because not everyone comes from the same background.”

Harris encouraged students to pursue studies in math, science and technology.

UEP also hosts a tutoring service, conducts workshops and connects students with mentors.

UEP tries to assist students who come from foster-care homes or other difficult circumstances, said Sneha Samala, a computer science graduate student who works with UEP.

“Urban experience (tries to) empower, embrace, enlighten and encourage,” Abdullah said.

“Believe that you can dream and believe in each other and lift as you climb. We are open to all students that want to come in and follow that motto.”

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