Capito, Whitson visit schools as part of female empowerment campaign

MADISON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson visited two West Virginia schools on Tuesday in hopes of inspiring girls to become the next generation of female leaders.

The two spoke to students at New Martinsville School and Madison Elementary School as part of Capito’s West Virginia Girls Rise Up program, which was launched in 2015 as an effort to build confidence in young females and allow themselves to explore their dreams.

“I want to see the next generation of West Virginia girls leading in science, technology and government,” said Capito, the first female West Virginia senator.

Whitson, who served as the first female commander of the International Space Station between October 2007 and April 2008, said her dream of becoming an astronaut began with the Apollo 11 moon landing and grew after women began to be accepted into the space program in the 1970s.

“That made it seem much more real to me. Even though it took a long time to achieve that goal, it was still very much worth all the effort” she said.

The road to the stars was not an easy one for Whitson; at one point, she had to sell chickens in order to raise enough money for a pilot’s license. She was also rejected by NASA on 10 different occasions. But, Whitson said, perseverance is an important skill to have if one wants to reach their goals.

“We don’t normally get our dream job handed to us on a platter, so we have to work to make that a reality,” she said.

Capito and Whitson spoke about the importance of goals to female students, who also took part in exercises and group activities expanding on discussions.

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