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Senior Communications Specialist Alana Johnson

A woman wearing thick-rimmed glasses, a purple sweater, and a black cardigan smiles widely at the camera. Paintings of worlds across our Solar System are blurred in the background as light from above perfectly frames her face, surrounded by loose, dirty blonde curls.
NASA/Joel Kowsky

“Where I grew up [on my family farm] 100% shaped who I am. In fact, my son and I were talking about high schools and how big his is. His high school population is double the population of the town I grew up in. I had 20 kids in my graduating class, and three of them were foreign exchange students. He asked me, ‘Do you wish you would have gone to a bigger school like us?’ And I said, ‘Actually, no, I don’t.’ I loved where I grew up. I absolutely cherish what it instilled in me, and that’s something I carry with me all the time.

“The earliest lesson was that you are part of something much bigger than yourself. Everybody has an important role in what they’re doing, no matter how small. I remember when we were bringing in the corn. Right now, everybody buys it, but I didn’t buy corn until maybe college because it was a whole family thing. We went and picked the corn. The little kids would shuck it, pulling off all the silk. The grown-ups would shave it off the cob and then push it off to the side, and then the older kids would bag it up into plastic bags. And then everybody went home. It was always about a team. You can be the youngest person or the lowest-ranking person, but you always bring something important to that table.

“Everywhere I’ve been since I got commissioned [as an Air Force officer], my very first office in 1997, I hang an aerial picture of our farm on my wall because it’s [a reminder to] remember where you came from, remember home, and don’t get too big for your britches. No matter what, I could be part of something huge, and I look at that picture and say, ‘I have always been part of something much bigger than myself.’ All the little, tiny moments in life that build upon themselves trace back to that family farm for me.”

– Alana Johnson, Senior Communications Specialist, NASA Headquarters

Image Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
Interviewer: NASA/Tahira Allen

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