Astronaut Hero Helps Gananda Fourth-Grader Shine

Daviana doesn’t just enter a room. She bounces in with every ounce of energy one would expect from a fourth-grader and her contagious smile has zero boundaries. 

So it’s no surprise that on this day, it doesn’t take long for every person in the room to have a smile of their own because Daviana has plenty of smiling to share.

That’s how eager this Gananda fourth-grader is to talk about one of her heroes, retired NASA astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa. 

“I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was 5,” said Daviana, who spends much of her free time watching videos, movies and reading books about space. “I told (my teacher, Mrs. Sohns) that and she helped me with a letter to Ellen Ochoa.”

And this is why Daviana’s smiles today are even brighter than they usually are. Because not only did Dr. Ochoa receive Daviana’s letter, she wrote back and included an autographed picture. 

Talk about being over the moon with excitement!

“My eyes get teary,” Daviana said of the return letter. “I didn’t expect to get a letter back. It came as a surprise.”

As part of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1993, Dr. Ochoa became the first Latina in space. That might be enough to create a hero for most children, but for Daviana there is more.

“I wrote to tell her how she inspired me since I was 5 and that we speak the same language,” Daviana said of the Spanish connection. 

Mrs. Sohns, Daviana’s teacher, is beyond proud. She and Daviana spent several lessons working together on the letter before mailing it with a picture Daviana drew along with some books about Dr. Ochoa that they checked out of the Macedon library. Daviana said she also gets plenty of help and encouragement from her mom, dad and grandparents. 

If smiles could fuel rockets, there is no doubt Daviana would already be in space. But until then, she’ll settle for more books, videos and movies. And, of course, dreams.

“I’m going to be up there someday,” Daviana said. “There’s stuff out there (in space) we don’t know about. I want to go to the moon and bring a piece of it back. It’s so beautiful. 

“Sometimes I just lay in the grass and stare at the sky. It’s kind of cool and I love Mrs. Sohns. She helped me share my story.”