West Virginia legend tells kids to aim for the stars - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

West Virginia legend tells kids to aim for the stars

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BECKLEY, WV (WVVA) -

A local legend spent Saturday meeting and greeting people of all ages.

Vietnam War veteran, turned NASA engineer, turned author, Homer Hickam was in town to celebrate the annual Rocket Boys Festival in Beckley

The traditional event is more than just a fun event for those who love the story of West Virginia-native Homer Hickam.

Organizers say it's also a way to help inspire kids to find within themselves, a way to achieve their dreams.

"I'm always happy to come back to West Virginia, especially to talk to these students, the fact they come from a very special place,” Hickam said. “They have values they don't even know that they have yet, and strength they don't know that they have. And whatever it is that they want to do, West Virginia is preparing them to do it."

Hickam's autobiographical memoir-turned-movie "October Sky" chronicles his McDowell County upbringing and his pursuit of a career in rocket science, while growing up in mining community.

Festival director Scott Hill hopes the event can shed a light on the many opportunities students have around them.

"It's about pathways to success, and hopefully here at the Rocket Boys festival, we expose many different paths,” Scott said.

Students Dre and Ethan have discovered one of those paths. Mountaineer Area Robotics or "MARS" has been coming to the annual event as a student outreach program.

"We'd like to introduce as many people as we can, especially in rural areas like West Virginia, to this kind of technology that's around them,” Ethan said.

"The world is changing around us, either you can get with that change and move on or you're stuck behind," Dre said.

As for Hickam, he hopes the legacy of the Rocket Boys shows what hard work and ambition can do.

"I keep telling them, aim high, don't hold back,” he said. “Once you figure out what your dream is, go for it."

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