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Center Snapshot: Guillermo Gonzalez
Guillermo Gonzalez Image above: Guillermo Gonzalez took time out recently to teach a Day of Education class in Newport News. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Amy Johnson

As one of the leads for the Launch Abort System office, Guillermo -- or Guillo -- Gonzalez is a very busy man. However, last month he made time to tell his story of a journey that began in front of a television set in Puerto Rico and continues at NASA Langley.

EFE, a Spanish news agency, ran a story that was featured in, among many national outlets, the Yo soy la cultura latina (I am the latino culture) section of MSN Latino. The story highlighted how Hispanics, inspired to work for NASA, make that dream happen despite barriers.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, it’s apropos to point to the article that highlights one of NASA Langley’s very own engineers who decided at a young age that he wanted to work for the agency.

Gonzalez, who grew up in Ponce, Puerto Rico, remembers being 11 years old and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

"I remember the transmission was delayed, and in Puerto Rico it came out very late at night," Gonzalez said. "I was falling asleep watching it on the old black and white tube, and I saw the big NASA logo, and I asked my dad what that meant, and he didn't know."

Gonzalez’s father told him to ask his cousin who happened to be studying engineering in college.

His cousin explained what NASA did, and Gonzalez recalled thinking, "I'd like to go work for them someday."

It was that moment, watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, as well as a lot of other little moments in which family members and teachers encouraged him to pursue engineering that led him to his dream job at NASA.

A close-knit family, Gonzalez's cousins encouraged him to pursue engineering when they realized he excelled in math and science. His parents, both of whom left school in the sixth grade, also pushed him to get good grades and go to college. He also received a little help from teachers along the way who noticed his potential and guided him in his studies.

His dedication to his studies landed him a full scholarship to the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where he decided to study engineering.

When Gonzalez was 20, the NASA logo showed up in his life again. This time it was on a flyer he came across in one of his engineering classes. It was advertising NASA's Co-op program.

Without hesitation, Gonzalez applied and was accepted in January of 1979.

Following his graduation from the Co-op program, he was offered a job at NASA Langley as an electrical engineer. He enthusiastically accepted and has been here ever since.

Gonzalez was happy to share his story with EFE because he wants to let other Hispanics know that they can achieve their dreams with dedication and hard work. He recently participated in NASA's Day of Education because he knows how important it is to receive guidance in school.

His message to students: "You have to study hard and apply yourself. You have to have that desire and discipline to accomplish your dreams."

Since he’s been at Langley full-time, Gonzalez has worked on a number of projects ranging from aeronautics to aerospace. One of the reasons he chose to major in electrical engineering was because of the versatility it offered him.

Most recently, his career hit a high note when he watched the successful flight test of the launch abort system called Pad-Abort 1. As the avionics lead for the project since its inception, Gonzalez said he enjoyed seeing the project go from "concept to reality."

He could also say the same about his own career, as he made his own dream happen, from concept to reality.