Things That Matter

This Group of Latino Students In the Bronx Had Their Names Flown Into Space on NASA’s Mars Rover

Photo via Alejandro Mundo

Everyone has a teacher that has come into their life and gone above and beyond. A teacher that has changed your life for the better. For a group of Latino students at Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, that teacher is Alejandro Mundo.

Science teacher Alejandro Mundo encouraged his astronomy class to send their names into the NASA’s Mars space rover.

Not only is Mr. Mundo a beloved high school science teacher, he’s also an associate NASA researcher. Apparently, NASA was the one who proposed the idea to Mr. Mundo in the first place. NASA reached out to Mr. Mundo and asked if the 25 astronomy students would send their names, stenciled on chips, on the Mars Rover.

NASA believed the idea would symbolize a personal touch between humanity and the mystery and wonder of space. They also liked the idea of a group of Latino students–a group that is underrepresented in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)–and the historic space mission.

Alejandro Mundo’s primary reason for becoming a science teacher in the first place was to get more inner-city kids of color into the STEM fields.

As of now, Black and Latinos make up between 8 and 9 percent of STEM occupations. Kingsbridge International High School, the school that Mr. Mundo teaches at, is 93 percent Latino. 86 percent of those students are leaning English as a second language.

“The only way we can change that in the future is by starting with this current generation,” Mundo told NBC News. “So by igniting my students with a passion for science, that is the key that I have seen that can make a difference. Little by little, we will be changing those statistics.”

Born in Mexico, Alejandro Mundo came over to the US when he was 12-years-old, hardly knowing any English.

The adults around him–who were supposed to support him–told him that he would end up “cleaning bathrooms” or “working in a factory”. Mundo knew he was destined for more than that. “No, I’m going to college,” he told himself. “I’m going to get a career, and I’m going to use this career not for my personal growth but to help others, specifically people like me.”

Now, Alejandro Mundo inspires his majority-Latino students to also reach for the stars–literally and figuratively. He does that by engaging them on a creative level, like when he took his class on a field trip to the NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics. The center showed his students what its like to be an astronaut. They also viewed a simulated space mission to Mars.

Alejandro Mundo has directly inspired his students both with his teaching methods, and with his own example of success.

In fact, his students love him so much that they created the “Mundology Club”, a club dedicated to STEM fields–and an obvious tribute to their favorite teacher.

“I couldn’t have this opportunity in my country,” said one of Mundo’s students, Dominican-born Jorge Fernandez, about the opportunity for his name to “travel” to Mars. “I feel like our teacher made that possible. It’s really important for us Latinos to get into it, because, basically, we can do a lot.”

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