Katya Echazarreta was forever changed on June 4, 2022, when she became the first Mexican-born woman ever to travel to space. Echazarreta and five other passengers were launched more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface on a Blue Origin rocket, the fifth passenger flight funded by billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Now, Echazarreta, who is a NASA electrical engineer and was recently named one of Glamour Mexico’s Women of the Year, is partnering with McDonald’s for its HACER National Scholarship program to show other young, Latines that with hard work, there is a path they can take to realize their own career goals, something she herself started at McDonald’s when she was working there herself while trying to make her dreams come true.
“This program is a hybrid mentorship session and inspirational session all in one,” Echazarreta told Remezcla during a recent interview. “We want Latino students and the Hispanic community to know that their dreams to get an education and to set big goals can be achieved. There are resources available that they can take advantage of.”
Echazarreta believes in this program so much that she even went on the road with the HACER Education Tour. While on it she served as a guest speaker at U.S. high schools and has hosted one-on-one in-person and virtual mentorship sessions. High school students nationwide can participate in one of these virtual mentorship sessions with Echazarreta on January 25, 2023.
“We’re going to schools across the United States to offer different speaking engagements and workshops to help students with their college, financial aid and scholarship applications,” she said. “I think it’s a really great thing that we’re going to provide them with that extra little push they may need to go on and do amazing things.”
Along with her tour, Echazarreta hopes to continue connecting with students through her latest project, Oddly Satisfying Science, a show that streams on Curiosity Stream. She said sharing her knowledge of science on platforms like TV and social media is important because growing up, she never saw anyone that looked like her teaching science and engineering.
“I wanted to do TV because I wanted to give children and girls and Latinos that representation on the screen,” she said. “Yes, I’m teaching you about STEM and all these cool things about science, and I’m showing you all these amazing experiments, and I’m also [Latina]. I’m giving it a new face.”
Sharing these new experiences with her family has also been something Echazarreta has cherished over the last few months. Every time she calls them with news about a project she’s working on, they almost expect that it’s going to be bigger than the last. But how do you top going to space?
“Every time I call with something, they sort of brace themselves and are like, ‘OK, what is it this time?’” Echazarreta said. “They know I’m constantly trying to one-up myself. It’s been fun to share that with them and bring them along.”
Echazarreta’s family should probably hold on tight for the next chapter of her career. She said she has “some very big dreams at the moment” that include “creating a foundation in Mexico” for anyone interested in the space industry – from students to scientists to other engineers like herself – who are working on new research, inventions, and technological developments. Then, there’s also this trip she would like to take sometime soon – to the moon.
“That’s a personal goal of mine,” Echazarreta said. “I want to be able to do that with Mexico. I’ve been in conversations with the Mexican Space Agency and some other providers to see how we can make this happen. I want this to be a Mexican mission to the moon!” And just recently, she was even able to address the Mexican Congress to “advocate for all Mexicans looking for Space opportunities.”
Until she reaches the moon, applications to the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship that Katya Echazarreta is partnering with are open now through February 6, 2023. Students and parents can visit mcdonalds.com/hacer to apply and access additional college resources in English and Spanish.