NASA Astronaut Dr. José M. Hernández Surprises Animo Legacy Students at Opening of New Reading Nooks

Los Angeles, CA (November 29) – Gordon Philanthropies, Inc. in collaboration with NASA Astronaut Dr. José M. Hernández surprised over 1,000 students and staff members at Animo Legacy Middle School with a special appearance and an autographed copy of his book, Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut. Dan Gordon, founder of Gordon Philanthropies, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and running LA District Attorney candidate Craig Mitchell, and Dr. Hernández came together at Animo Legacy to celebrate alongside students and teachers the joy, importance, and power of books and reading. The event also celebrated the opening and completion of 60 reading nooks made possible through a $40,000 grant provided by Gordon Philanthropies.

“It is an honor to have someone as inspirational as Dr. Hernández to support our mission to bring equitable education to all children. Our organization looks forward to partnering with Dr. Hernández and his foundation to continue providing educational opportunities that permit students to thrive and succeed not only academically, but in their personal lives as well.” shared Founder, Dan Gordon.

Retired NASA Astronaut Dr. José M. Hernández said, “I’m very happy and excited to form part of this project. I thank Gordon Philanthropies for their help in bringing my story to underserved communities as I believe that this will empower our kids to consider a career in the STEM field and come to see that no dream is too big.”

The reading nooks form part of Green Dot’s Empowered Reading Initiative sponsored by Gordon Philanthropies, which aims to promote the value of in-class reading and supply students with access to books in hopes of improving student literacy. Presently, 45% of children in the United States live in neighborhoods that lack public libraries and stores that sell books, or in homes where books are not present or available. Studies have also demonstrated that whereas in high-income communities there are thirteen books for every child, in high-poverty communities, this ratio drastically differs as there is one book for every three hundred children. Furthermore, initiatives such as these set out to not only address the existent literacy gap but more importantly, endow all students with the opportunity to access reading materials.

Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell, who was also a high school teacher for 17 years, said, “Reading has made all the difference in my life, I have turned to books for so many reasons. From being able to better understand people and cultures different from my own, to gaining inspiration by reading about the lives of exceptional people, reading has permitted me to acquire experiences that continue to enrich my life.”

Through the grant provided by Gordon Philanthropies, Animo Legacy was able to create unique and personalized reading spaces for students for the years to come.