Lift-off for Hymers students as astronaut inspires them to reach for the stars

Students at Hymers College have been urged by an American astronaut to work hard and never give up on their dreams.

Astronaut Don Thomas speaking to students at Hymers College. Photo: Tom Arran Commercial Photography.

Don Thomas, a veteran of four NASA space shuttle missions, delivered an inspirational talk to students at the school, in which he insisted one of them could become the first person to set foot on Mars.

Mr Thomas spoke passionately about his own personal journey to becoming an astronaut – which included being turned down three times before finally being accepted – and detailed exactly what it is like to live and work in space.

He told them: “Do your best, work hard, and never give up. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t achieve something. If you work hard and are passionate, you can do anything in your lives.

“Whatever your dream is, don’t give up on it.”

Around 200 students attended the event. Along with Hymers students, the school opened its doors to students from other schools as well, including St Mary’s College, Beverley Grammar School, Driffield Junior School and Withernsea High School, among others.

Following the talk by Mr Thomas, the years 6 to 11 students and a seven-strong group of Hymers sixth form physics students were given the opportunity to ask questions and get signed photographs.

Mr Thomas said: “I’d wanted to become an astronaut since I was six years old, and my story is one of having a dream, working hard, doing my best, failing along the way, but coming back and ultimately making it into space.

“I was turned down by NASA three times and was 39 by the time I made it into space, so my message is one of perseverance.

“My dream now is that one day, 20 years from now, I get a call from one of these children here at Hymers to tell me they’ve just got back from Mars, and they want to say thank you for inspiring them.

“It’s a pleasure to share my experiences with students like these, who are so interested and have such a sparkle in their eye.”

Year 8 Hymers student Ram Pisharody, whose dream is to become an astronaut himself, was instrumental in bringing Mr Thomas to the independent Hull school.

Mr Thomas is in the UK as part of a space talks programme by Space Inspires, and Ram’s family have contact with the organisers from previous events they have attended. The family got in touch to invite Mr Thomas to Hymers, which he accepted.

Thirteen-year-old Ram, who has met numerous astronauts at different events and even attended NASA’s Space Camp in Alabama in 2019, said: “I feel like I’ve done my school proud. Everyone has benefitted from an astronaut coming here, and learned a lot.

“I already loved it at Hymers but that’s gone to a whole new level after this.”

Ram’s mum, Sandhya, said: “He’s always been passionate about space and we’ve been attending lectures for years. It’s his dream to become an astronaut.

“Ram was so excited to welcome an astronaut to his school, and to show it off. He’s been thriving ever since he came here, and it’s amazing that they put on events like this.”

Hymers Headmaster Justin Stanley, who welcomed Mr Thomas onto the stage to address the students, said: “Events like this are all about bringing learning to life outside the classroom and inspiring students with a vision of what study and hard work can lead to. It can literally take them to the stars!

“Here at Hymers, we’re aspirational and always encourage our students to believe that anything is possible.”

About Don Thomas

As a young boy, Don Thomas was inspired by early astronauts such as Alan Shepherd, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

He was turned down by NASA three times in his efforts to become an astronaut, before finally being accepted in 1990.

His four space shuttle missions include three aboard Columbia and one aboard Discovery.

Mr Thomas has spent a total of 44 days in space and orbited the earth nearly 700 times.

Now, he carries out public speaking engagements to inspire the next generation of astronauts.