My parents were born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression. By coincidence, they both lost their fathers when they were young. Their mothers had to figure out how to keep their families together during those rough economic times. I grew up on the stories of my parents' struggles. They worked hard to give their children a better life. Education was important.
I wanted to be an astronaut so I joined Civil Air Patrol as a teenager. I learned how to fly an airplane before I learned to drive a car. When I finally had a steady job, I earned my pilot's license. I attended Douglass College at Rutgers University where I took advantage of the Individual Major option to combine any course related to space science. My first job was in Princeton University's Astrophysics Department to work on a satellite project -- OAO-3C. I applied to be an astronaut when women were allowed to apply even though I knew I was too short and too near-sighted to qualify. (Sally Ride was better qualified anyway.) In 1984, I moved to Houston to work at the NASA-Johnson Space Center. I worked on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs in the Mission Control Center.