NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson dares kids to dream at Rivermont Collegiate

NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson remembers how her childhood dreams fueled a long career in space exploration.

"I was nine, and I watched the first guys walk on the moon," she recalled on Tuesday, February 13, during an appearance at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf.

While the Iowa-born astronaut discovered her passion for space travel as a child, she's now reaching out to kids in the same age group about science-related careers.

"I want you to know you can do these things, whatever it is you might dream about," she said.

Dr. Whitson shows how dreams become reality, becoming the first female commander of the International Space Station and serving a record 665 days in space.

She finds it effective to reach younger students in elementary school.

"They don't pooh-pooh it and say, it's not real, or it's not me," she continued.  "They're much more likely to hear you when you say you can live your dreams."

Dreams encouraging these young students to aim high for space travel by studying science, technology, engineering and math - the so-called STEM subjects.

"When I was little, I kind of wanted to be (an astronaut)," said Caliegh Wise, 10.  "But now that I know what's up there and what I can learn, I want to be one more."

"I think it's great," added Sreya Alla, 8.  "You get to do fun stuff.  It's not just all serious."

It's a message about equality and enterprise that could craft careers.

"Make sure we're encouraging our young girls as much as we're encouraging our young boys," Whitson said.

Her visit is helping to encourage the next generation of space exploration.

"You have to think about what it is that inspires you and drives you," she concluded. "Know that you, too, can live your dreams."

Peggy Whitson is living proof that dreams can come true with hard work behind them.