She Came As A Teen From Colombia With Only $300 To Her Name, Now She’s a Director For NASA
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Once in a while, a woman comes along who shows us what the definition of FIERCE truly is. A woman who pursues her dreams, no matter how many obstacles are in her way. A woman who will no doubt inspire generations of girls who come after her.
Colombiana Diana Trujillo–the first immigrant Hispanic woman to join the NASA Academy–is a FIERCE woman.
Diana Trujillo came to the United States at the age of 17 with only $300 to her name. Through her hard work and grit, she managed to become the leader of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team at NASA.
And as if that wasn’t cool enough, she also recently hosted the first-ever Spanish-language NASA transmission of a planetary landing. In general, Diana Trujillo is smashing barriers left and right.
Diana Trujillo was born in Cali, Colombia to a mother who dropped out of medical school when she became pregnant. Seeing her mother put aside her dreams in service of others had a profound affect on Trujillo.
“As a little girl, I saw the women in my family give up a lot. It gave me the tenacity that I needed to say I’m not going to give up on my dream,” she told TechCrunch in 2018. “I want to be out there looking back in, showing my family that women have value, that women matter.”
When Trujillo’s parents divorced when she was 12, the family went through intense financial difficulties. Her mother struggled to make ends meet.
“I remember just laying down on the grass and looking at the sky and thinking, ‘Something has to be out there that is better than this,’” Trujillo said. “‘Some other species that treats themselves better or values people better.'”
When Trujillo talks about her former like in Colombia, she is candid about the challenges she faced and how looking up to the night sky was her escape.
“There was a lot of violence going on in my country, so for me, looking up at the sky and looking at the stars was my safe place,” she told NASA.
When Trujillo landed in the U.S., she enrolled in community college courses while moonlighting as a housekeeper to make money. But she never considered the work degrading or beneath her.
“I saw everything coming my way as an opportunity,” she told CBS News. “I didn’t see it as, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this job at night,’ or ‘I can’t believe that I’m cleaning. I can’t believe that I’m a cleaning a bathroom right now.’ It was just more like, ‘I’m glad that I have a job and I can buy food and have a house to sleep.'”
Trujillo transferred from community college to the University of Florida, where she majored in aerospace engineering. She joined the NASA Academy in her senior year.
After that, Trujillo’s career snowballed. She has had numerous roles within NASA, including telecom systems engineer for the Curiosity Rover. She was also for creating the robotic arm of the Perseverance Rover. In other words: the woman is a genius.
But Trujillo isn’t all brains–she also has a huge heart. She is involved in various philanthropic efforts to recruit more Latina and African-American women into science and engineering careers.
Of her accomplishments, like her mother, Trujillo thinks in terms of service to others. “The abuelas, the moms or dads, the uncles, los primos, everyone has to see this,” she told CBS. “And they have to see a woman in there, too. So, that they can turn around to the younger generation and say she can do it, you can do it.”
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